Baby (Ansel Elgort) wants to change, but … stop running? That’s easier said than done. Especially if you’re a sweet, loving, sensitive kid (that’s Baby in Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver), whose cruel dad is responsible for your mom dying as you sit helplessly watching. What do you do with those terrifying memories? You grow up and you drive fast; blocking out the constant reminders that ring in your head with the sweet music (or any music) of that mom you lost. You drive; better than most people; better than your mom could, since she couldn’t avoid that one fatal accident....

PTSD always follows trauma. No traumatized person is “strong” enough to escape it. Yet, for complicated reasons, Post Traumatic Stress symptoms are too frequently off everyone’s radar, particularly the radar of the one suffering. The reasons are both straight out of the DSM-V and very individual. Jeff Bauman’s story in David Gordon Green’s powerful new film, Stronger, with Jake Gyllenhaal’s deeply moving performance as Jeff and Tatiana Maslany’s complex and engagingly real portrayal of his girlfriend, Erin Hurley, is a good place to start understanding what happens after trauma. ...

Director Ridley Scott's film, The Martian, tells the story of NASA astronaut Mark Watney’s (Matt Damon) accidental abandonment on the barren planet of Mars. Early childhood abandonment also creates a desolate emotional landscape. People can’t be trusted. Hope is fractured. On Mars, Mark has two things to turn to: the distasteful music of Commander Lewis’ (Jessica Chastain) 1970’s disco classics and his own ingenious tactics of survival. For anyone abandoned, these are serious questions: is clinging to fierce self-sufficiency the answer? Or is human connection that has already failed a too risky music to trust? Abandonment An unexpected and violent dust storm...

Director Lenny Abrahamson and writer Emma Donoghue's film, ROOM, takes us directly into the emotional experience of trauma. As the film opens, we hear a young boy’s voice introducing us to a girl named Ma. Kidnapped, stolen from her life, and kept in ROOM for seven years, Ma lives in a world as incomprehensible as Alice’s in Alice in Wonderland. Those victimized by trauma know its terror. Yet that terror,  not manageable alone, is put far aside someplace else in order not to feel it. What kind of help do those who’ve been severely traumatized need to slowly give words to terror? Terror Terror is a...

Ashley Judd is speaking out. Good, because sexual harassment is damaging. You feel powerless. You end up with a lot of unwarranted shame. You even blame yourself. But, when someone has power over you, of one kind or another, it’s hard to say, “No” - to report it, or to stand up for yourself. You might feel too scared. Maybe you change the reality around in your mind as if it’s not really happening. Or tell yourself it’s not as bad as you think. Perhaps you even feel you have way too much to lose. That’s the problem with sexual harassment...

Jon Hamm deserves an Emmy for Don Draper. I agree with Variety’s Debra Birnbaum about that. But, I find it unfortunate that voters would only now consider awarding him that Emmy. As Birnbaum wrote, Hamm likely hasn’t won in the past since “Don Draper … was a cheating husband, a neglectful father, an unapologetic alcoholic … it’s hard to root for someone seemingly so unredeeming.” So now since, at the end of the brilliant Mad Men series, Don Draper apparently finds his “good self” it might be OK? In my opinion, they’ve mistakenly diminished the complex demands on an actor...

Woody Allen's new film, The Irrational Man, gives us a troubled philosophy professor, Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix), in an existential crisis. Although Abe is an expert in Existentialism, he can’t live its system of belief. He’d have to find meaning in his life and live it to its fullest, in spite of its limits (or his past). Abe can’t. He lives in despair, and this despair leads him to an irrational act. Yet, the clues to why he does what he does are lost in an imbalanced amount of philosophizing. The character of Abe Lucas could have used a script...

Don Draper’s (Jon Hamm) greatest talent is creating stories that sell. Sometimes his imagination carries him away – for better or worse. His imagination no doubt saved him from an abusive and damaging childhood. There are worse things than to imagine being somewhere else someday. Or a different person than the one you’re made to feel you are. Throughout the Mad Men series, though, Don’s imagination has taken him away from feelings and places he just can’t be. That’s sometimes gotten him into trouble. Where is it taking him now? Lost Horizon finds Don at McCann-Erikson. The self-serving (not to mention controlling, chauvinistic,...

SPOILER ALERT: You might not want to read this post until you’ve watched the entire series. It’s terribly difficult to write a comedy about something as traumatic as kidnapping, sexual exploitation, and brainwashing. Netflix’s The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock) tries to do just that. Does it work? Is there a message within the lighthearted bandying about of these serious topics? As a psychologist, I don’t see one. Kimmy’s (Ellie Kemper) story: kidnapped in eighth grade by a preacher who claimed to be saving her and 3 other women from the apocalypse. Held in an...

We’re left with more questions than answers at the end of the premiere of John Ridley’s American Crime. Of course - we’ve only just begun. Yet, we start to realize that each main character has complicated secrets that must be uncovered in order to make sense of what’s happened. For me, as not just a viewer but also a psychologist, meeting these characters for the first time is a lot like having a first session with a new patient in therapy. There are relationships gone wrong  - similar to Russ (Timothy Hutton) and Barb (Felicity Huffman). There are things like Carter’s (Elvis...