Marital/Family Dynamics


Favorites


400 Blows, The (Les quatre cents coups)
Genre:  
Drama    Year:  1959    Rating: NR-PG-13
Actors: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claire Maurier
Topics: Developmental, Family Dynamics, Stress and Coping
In French with English subtitles. This is a classic start of the French New Wave of cinema by Truffaut. The semi-autobiographical story is of a young teen boy who, through a series of misunderstandings, experiences a variety of traumas. The film allows for exploration of family dynamics and the making of juvenile delinquency. This film is a good example of how it “takes a village to raise a child,” or, in this case, to turn a bright, nice kid into a hardened, jaded young man. My students did not enjoy this film – “too slow,” “too much time with no dialogue,” etc. I chock it up to this generation’s expectations of “wow” factors through action and CGI. They had the same reaction to the classic Kurosawa’s Rashomon. Gone are the days for appreciating the use of light and shadow and symbolism, I guess!


All About Eve 
Genre:  Drama    Year:  1950    Rating:  NR-PG
Actors:  Bette Davis, Ann Baxter, George Sanders
Topics:  Psychopathology, Personality Disorder, Marital/Family Dynamics
Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Writing and more. A classic movie. Pay close attention to Eve through the film. Also, what about Margo’s personality? Is the ending realistic? If Eve were in treatment in the midst of her turmoil, how would you have treated her? 


American Splendor   
Genre:  Drama/Comedy    Year:  2003    Rating:  R
Actors:  Paul Giamatti, Harvey Pekar, Hope Davis
Topics:  Psychopathology, Depression, Marital/Family Dynamics, Personality Disorder
Very interesting and unique film. Drags a bit at the end, though. Story of Harvey Pekar’s life (he’s the “poster child” for the DSM-III according to his wife). Full of characters with quirks (psychopathology?) who are still functioning in their lives. My favorite is Toby, the self-proclaimed nerd (pronounced “nyerd”) who is autistic. Having worked in a VA hospital, I can attest that the climate in the file room is right on the mark!


Beautiful People
Genre:  Drama/Comedy    Year:  1999    Rating:  R
Actors:  Thomas Goodridge, Frank Pruti, Tony Peters
Topics:  Psychopathology, Social, Stress and Coping, Family Dynamics
A black comedy from Britain. Much like a lighter version of “Crash.” The intertwining of lives and various conflicts allow for discussion of biases and “us” versus “them” mentalities. Also includes reference to “Bosnian syndrome.”


Boost, The
Genre:  Drama    Year:  1988    Rating:  R
Actors:  James Woods, Sean Young, John Kapelos
Topics:  Psychopathology, Substance Use Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics
Sean Young and James Woods get a “boost” from cocaine addiction, at what cost?


Canvas
Genre:  Drama    Year:  2006    Rating:  PG-13
Actors:  Joe Pantoliano, Marcia Gay Hardin
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics, Treatment, Stress and Coping
Seen through the eyes of a young boy, this film demonstrates the impact of schizophrenia on the family. As such, I imagine it would be useful in working with families dealing with mental illness in a loved one.  Great music and photography.


Crumb 
Genre:  Documentary    Year:  1994    Rating:  R
Actors:  Robert Crumb, Aline Kominsky, Charles Crumb
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics
WOW – a GOLDMINE of material for psychological analysis, and all true! Story of Robert Crumb, famous cartoonist, and his oddities (rising to the level of diagnosis?) and dysfunctional family history. Meeting his brothers and mother is so revealing. So much overlap among the brothers, yet each with his own particular difficulties and psychopathologies, yet all artistic and clearly brilliant. The brother Charles is the most endearing. The film hints at what may have been the root of Charles’ depression and suicide attempts. Do you see it?


Don Juan DeMarco
Genre:  Drama/Comedy    Year:  1995    Rating:  PG-13
Actors:  Johnny Depp, Marlon Brando, Faye Dunaway
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Treatment, Marital/Family Dynamics
Johnny Depp (one of my favorites) believes that he is the great lover, Don Juan. He is treated by therapist, Marlon Brando, who, as often happens in the movies, is really treated by his patient. Cute flick.


Don’t Bother to Knock 
Genre:  Drama    Year:  1952    Rating:  NR-PG
Actors:  Marilyn Monroe, Richard Widmark, Anne Bancroft
Topics:  Psychopathology, Mood Disorders, Personality Disorders
This is not a well-known film and was not a critics’ favorite; however, I enjoyed it and believe that in its short 76 minutes it gives plenty of material to digest.  Marilyn Monroe plays a young girl hired for the first time to babysit a child at a hotel, as recommended by her uncle, the elevator operator.  As the movie progresses, we learn that she was recently released from a mental institution, “almost cured,” almost being the operative word.  I enjoyed the movie  and Monroe’s performance.  Consider suggestions of her childhood experiences, the concept of diathesis-stress in the onset of  psychopathology, and the possible personality disorder present.


Enduring Love 
Genre:  Drama    Year:  2004    Rating:  R
Actors:  Daniel Craig, Rhys Ifans, Samantha Morton
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics, Stress and Coping
This film, based on Ian McEwan’s novel, has one of the most unique opening scenes. Through a chance event, a strange man develops the delusional belief (erotomania) that he has a romantic relationship with a male college professor, who, ironically, lectures on the sociobiology of love. The professor suffers from acute post traumatic stress disorder, coupled with the anxiety of being stalked.  See my article on the topic for more information.


Fatal Attraction 
Genre:  Drama      Year:  1987   Rating:  R
Actors:  Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Anne Archer
Topics:  Psychopathology, Personality Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics, Stress and Coping
A film which demonstrates why flings can be dangerous. Glenn Close as the spurned “flingee.” Get out the Borderline Personality Disorder criteria…


 

Harvey 
Genre:  Comedy      Year:  1950      Rating:  NR-PG
Actors:  James Stewart, Josephine Hull, Peggy Dow
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Substance Use Disorders, Treatment, Marital/Family Dynamics
Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actress. Classic comedy with Jimmy Stewart hallucinating (?) a six-foot rabbit named Harvey. Consider the portrayal of psychiatry and the mental asylum and the apparent ease with which one seemed to be able to commit a person. Also, one might think Harvey was a result of too much alcohol, but do we actually see Jimmy Stewart ever drink? Hmmm. My favorite lines are Elwood’s quoting his mother: “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh-so-smart or oh-so-pleasant,” and his conclusion, “Well, for years I was smart; I recommend pleasant.” Is it a personality disorder to be too nice, too polite? Ah, if we all were so afflicted! Parallels with Peter Sellers in “Being There” and Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump?”


He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not (A la folie…pas du tout) 
Genre:  Drama      Year:  2002      Rating:  PG-13
Actors:  Audrey Tautou, Samuel Le Bihan
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics, Stress and Coping
In French with English subtitles. A young art student is having an affair with a married cardiologist whose wife is pregnant. She becomes suicidal when it is apparent that he is not going to leave the wife. Seems like a classic tale, until the second half of the movie, when the film rewinds and we see all the same events from the doctor’s perspective.. This is the case of a delusional disorder subtype. See my article on the topic for more information. Very entertaining.


Heavenly Creatures
Genre:  Drama      Year:  1994      Rating:  R
Actors:  Melanie Lynskey, Kate Winslet, Sara Peirse
Topics:  Psychopathology, Personality Disorder, Treatment, Marital/Family Dysfunction, Social, Developmental
Two girls share a rich fantasy life. Is this foie a deux (Shared Delusional Disorder?). Personality disorder? Features a young Kate Winslet.


I Am Sam
Genre:  Drama      Year:  2001      Rating: PG-13
Actors:  Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dakota Fanning
Topics:  Psychopathology, Neuropsychology, Forensic, Marital/Family Dynamics, Social
Sean Penn portrays a man with mental retardation fighting for custody of his 7-year-old child. Sam’s group of friends are entertaining – two are truly developmentally disabled – his close neighbor is agoraphobic. His lawyer is the stereotypical overworked yuppie professional woman, estranged from her family. The film is a classic tearjerker. Despite significant research for the film (watch the supplemental documentary), how realistic were the events? Did he take her to a pediatrician? Did the pediatrician have any concerns about his care? Was that a realistic portrayal of cross-examination of an expert witness? Could Sam really have afforded the apartment at the end in Los Angeles, making somewhere around $8/hour? What really was in the best interest of the child? Was the opposing attorney all that wrong? Many things to consider.


I Never Sang for my Father
Genre:  Drama      Year:      1970      Rating:  PG
Actors:  Melvyn Douglas, Gene Hackman, Dorothy Stickney
Topics:  Psychopathology, Mood Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics
Depressing film about a man’s relationship with his elderly father and the stresses involved in caring for him. Adjustment Disorder, with Mixed Emotional Features, Chronic?


Life as a House
Genre:  Drama     Year:  2001    Rating:  R
Actors:  Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott Thomas, Hayden Christensen
Topics:  Psychopathology, Mood Disorders, Substance Use Disorders, Stress and Coping, Marital/Family Dynamics
Kevin Klein portrays a man diagnosed with terminal cancer and given 4 months to live. He attempts to rebuild his relationship with his drug-using, life-hating teenage son, while they rebuild a ramshackle house that was his lifelong goal.


Ma Vie En Rose
Genre:  Drama      Year:  1997      Rating:  R
Actors:  Michele Laroque,Jean-Philippe Ecoffey, Helene Vincent
Topics:  Psychopathology, Mood Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics, Treatment, Social, Stress and Coping
French movie (English subtitles) – Chronicles the emerging signs of gender identity conflict in a young boy and his family’s reaction, as well as the community.


Man with the Golden Arm, The
Genre:  Drama      Year:  1955      Rating:  NR-PG-13
Actors:  Frank Sinatra, Eleanor Parker, Kim Novak
Topics:  Psychopathology, Personality Disorders, Substance Use Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics
One of the first films to deal with drug addiction – in this case heroin. Frank Sinatra leaves rehab clean, hoping to make a new start, but is dragged back under by returning to the same environment. His wife, desperate not to lose his affection/attention, pretends she is paralyzed. A movie ahead of its time. Compare to “Requiem for a Dream.”


Marnie 
Genre:  Drama      Year:  1964      Rating:   NR-PG
Actors:  Tippi Hedron, Sean Connery, Diane Baker
Topics:  Psychopathology, Anxiety Disorders, Treatment, Marital/Family Dynamics
There is much to this movie. It exemplifies classic Hitchcock in its photography, use of color, and psychological storyline. The psychiatrist role was deleted from the screenplay, with Sean Connery, as the boyfriend, taking over the lines. Was this realistic? Was the ending realistic? Can you explain the theivery? What about a classical conditioning paradigm for the fear of the color red and thunderstorms? How, today, would Marnie be treated?


Mommie Dearest
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1981     Rating:  R
Actors:  Faye Dunaway, Diana Scarwid, Steve Forrest
Topics:  Psychopathology, Personality Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics 
This film is the source of many cultural references. It is based on the book by the adopted daughter of famed movie star, Joan Crawford and chronicles the actress’s abusive behavior and mental illness. Diagnosis?


My Left Foot 
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1989     Rating:  R
Actors:  Daniel Day-Lewis, Brenda Fricker, Alison Whelan
Topics:  Neuropsychology/Medical Disorders, Substance Use Disorders, Mood Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics, Stress and Coping
Academy Award winner for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress. Great film about childhood misdiagnosis of cerebral palsy as mental retardation and the difficulties adjusting to an adult life with disabilities.


Ordinary People 
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1980     Rating:  R
Actors:  Mary Tyler Moore, Timothy Hutton, Donald Sutherland
Topics:  Psychopathology, Mood Disorders, Treatment, Marital/Family Dynamics, Stress and Coping
Academy Award winner for Best Picture and Best Actor. Another MUST SEE for psychology majors. Portrayal of how a family deals with trauma. One of the few positive portrayals of a therapist (Judd Hirsch).


Paris, Texas
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1984     Rating:  R
Actors:  Harry Dean Stanton, Sam Berry, Berhard Wicki
Topics:  Psychopathology, Dissociative Disorders, Neuropsychology, Marital/Family Dynamics
Unusual movie about a man who wanders out of the desert with amnesia for his past. He is reunited with his brother, slowly his memory returns, he develops a relationship with his son, and eventually he finds his wife. How do you interpret the ending?


Permanent Midnight
Genre:  Drama    Year:  1998     Rating:  R
Actors:  Ben Stiller, Maria Bello, Jay Paulson
Topics:  Psychopathology, Substance Use Disorders, Treatment, Marital/Family Dynamics
Autobiographical story of former Hollywood screenwriter, Jerry Stahl, and his struggles with drug addiction. Hard to go wrong with Ben Stiller as the lead and, of course, the omnipresent Owen Wilson has a small role.


Prime 
Genre:  Drama/Comedy     Year:  2005     Rating:  PG-13
Actors:  Uma Thurmann, Meryl Streep, Bryan Greenberg
Topics:  Treatment, Marital/Family Dynamics
OK, I was “primed” to dislike this movie, based on the trailers. I was pleasantly surprised, but not totally won over. The situation where a client becomes involved with a close family member is a good one and should lead to discussions of dual relationships. What about the direction given by the therapist’s therapist?


Prince of Tides, The
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1991     Rating:  R
Actors:  Barbra Streisand, Nick Nolte, Blythe Danner
Topics:  Psychopathology, Mood Disorders, Treatment, Marital/Family Dynamics
Barbra Streisand as therapist. Think it’s OK to fall in love with the brother of your suicidal client? Oy vey. Another example of unethical conduct by a mental health professional. I was angry through most of the movie! The beautiful cinematography helped keep me calm.


Quiet Room, The
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1996     Rating:  PG
Actors:  Celine O’Leary, Paul Blackwell, Chloe Ferguson
Topics:  Psychopathology, Marital/Family Dynamics
Australian film about a troubled 7-year-old girl who becomes mute in reaction to her divorcing parents’ fighting. The film is from inside the girl’s mind, as we hear her thoughts and comments on what is happening around her.


Rain Man 
Genre:  Drama      Year:  1988     Rating:  R
Actors:  Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Valeria Golino
Topics:  Neuropsychology, Marital/Family Dynamics
Academy Award winner for Best Picture and Best Actor. Excellent portrayal of autism in adulthood and associated family stresses. Wonderful movie.


Regarding Henry
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1991     Rating:  PG-13
Actors:  Harrison Ford, Annette Benning, Michael Haley
Topics:  Neuropsychology, Marital/Family Dynamics
Harrison Ford portrays a survivor of a brain injury. Accurate? I wonder how real survivors feel about this portrayal. Consider his personality pre and post the brain injury.


Requiem for a Dream
Genre:  Drama     Year:  2000     Rating:  R
Actors:  Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly
Topics:  Psychopathology, Substance Use Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics 
Another Darren Aronofsky film that pushes the boundaries. Strong portrayals of drug addiction (both street drugs and prescription drugs) and its costs. Roger Ebert deems it a “travelogue of hell” – for those who have not experienced the torment of drug addiction, here’s a guided tour. Consider the different types of addiction and motivations for drug use. Unique film techniques enhance this gripping movie.


Revolution #9 
Genre:  Drama     Year:  2001     Rating:  NR-R 
Actors:  Michael Risley
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics, Treatment 
I LOVED this underseen independent film (only rated by 175 people on the Internet Movie Database). It chronicles an acute episode of psychosis, its onset, effects on loved ones, and treatment components. Includes very realistic portrayal of a commitment hearing and the realities of managed care. The ending leaves room for discussion. Revolution #9 would make for a great start of a series of schizophrenia films, depicting various stages of the disorder, followed by Pi (untreated severe psychosis), Clean, Shaven (managed psychosis), and Spider chronic disability. It’s a great title, too. How many of you have played that song backward, looking for the hidden messages (I know I did as a teen)? Feel more connected to Jackson in this movie? Then again, Charles Manson claimed to receive messages from this song, too.  


Ruling Class, The
Genre:  Drama/Comedy     Year:  1972     Rating:  PG-13
Actors:  Peter O’Toole
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Treatment, Marital/Family Dynamics
This British black comedy has a cult following and was rereleased to include previously removed footage, which is unfortunate, as I found it too long. The first half or so I enjoyed, but found the second half disturbing, as it unfortunately followed the oh-so-common path of schizophrenic as dangerous. Still worth watching, as Peter O’Toole appears believing he is God and the treatment facility at first seems so benevolent. But, alas, the treating psychiatrist loses his ethical scruples, not to mention his sanity. The portrayal of schizophrenic dialogue is quite good, as well as O’Toole’s initial efforts to suppress his psychosis. Doesn’t rise to the level of a “favorite,” but worth watching. 


Sherrybaby
Genre:  Drama     Year:  2007     Rating:  R
Actors:  Maggie Gyllenhaal, Brad William Henke, Sam Bottoms
Topics:  Psychopathology, Substance Use Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics
Sherry is released from prison to a halfway house, after doing time for drugs/theft. Her young daughter has been cared for by her brother and his wife. Sherry struggles with her re-entry into society and into her child’s life, expecting the “quick fix” she could get from drug use. Consider family dynamics, personality issues.


Shine 
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1996     Rating:  PG-13
Actors:  Geoffrey Rush, Justin Braine, Sonja Todd
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics 
Academy Award winner for Best Actor. Story of gifted Australian pianist, David Helfgott, son of Holocaust survivors. You can visit the Helfgotts’ personal website to learn more about this interesting man and his wife. The father character also allows for diagnostic considerations. Helfgott appears to have schizoaffective disorder-manic. The music is excellent in this film.


Sling Blade
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1996     Rating:  R
Actors:  Billy Bob Thornton, Dwight Yoakam, J. T. Walsh
Topics:  Neuropsychology, Treatment, Marital/Family Dynamics 
A very interesting film, although somewhat predictable. What do you think the main character’s diagnoses would include? And how about when he left the state hospital – no such thing as discharge planning? Billy Bob Thornton is excellent as the long-term psychiatric inpatient.


Spanking the Monkey 
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1994     Rating:  R
Actors:  Jeremy Davies, Elizabeth Newett, Benjamin Hendrickson
Topics:  Marital/Family Dynamics, Personality Theory
What a positive surprise this film is and what a lousy title. If you are looking for a video to analyze psychologically, this is one ripe with material. A young pre-med student, rather than going to a prestigious summer internship in the attorney general’s office, is tasked with tending to his attractive mother who has broken her leg. His father is on the road selling motivational videos. This forced intimacy (he helps her with the bedpan, dressing, showering) leads to Oedipal situations. The film is a black comedy, with the viewer careening from very serious content to humor in seconds. Definitely one to see for the psychologically-minded.


Squid and the Whale, The 
Genre:  Drama     Year: 2005     Rating:  R
Actors:  Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Owen Kline
Topics:  Psychopathology, Personality Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics, Stress and Coping, Developmental
Wow. This film keeps you tense throughout. What a great family dynamics/dysfunction display. So much to consider – father’s narcissism, son’s budding narcissistic tendencies (from father’s modeling, or his own personality disorder?), younger son’s spiral into conduct disorder/depression, lack of boundaries between parents and children…don’t expect resolution at the end, though – just like most times in real life.


Still Alice
Genre: Drama     Year:  2014     Rating:  R
Actors:  Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kirsten Stewart
Topics: Neuropsychology, Marital/Family Dynamics
This Academy Award winning film portrays the development of early Alzheimer’s disease in a university linguistics professor. The character is only age 50, so this is described as “atypical.” The maintenance of insight through much of the decline seems inconsistent with the more traditional pattern. Family dynamics include variations in levels of support. Missing from the film was any referral for psychotherapy for Alice or her family. While Moore’s portrayal was good acting, the lack of character development is keeping this one off my favorites list.


 

Three Faces of Eve, The
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1957     Rating:  NR-PG-13
Actors:  Joanne Woodward, David Wayne, Lee J. Cobb
Topics:  Psychopathology, Dissociative Disorders, Treatment, Marital/Family Dynamics, Stress and Coping 
Academy Award winner for Best Actress. Early story of psychiatric treatment to fuse multiple personalities. One of the “training films” used by the Hillside Strangler in his attempt to fake multiple personality disorder (see Frontline’s “Mind of a Murderer-Part 2”). Compare with Sybil. Consider the etiologies and why The Three Faces of Eve did not spark the boom of MPD diagnoses that followed Sybil. Note the role of passivity (aka Eve White) as an adaptive strategy for coping with her husband. Note also the timing of the onset of problems, associated with miscarriage. Was the revelation at the end really the cure, in a Freudian sense, or was there progress all?


Unstrung Heroes
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1995     Rating:  PG
Actors:  Andie MacDowell, John Turturro, Michael Richards
Topics:  Psychopathology, Anxiety Disorders, Personality Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics
Andie MacDowell portrays a dying woman with a young son, married to an eccentric inventor. The two oddball uncles (one’s paranoid, one’s a hoarder) come through for the boy with some remarkable insights and wisdom.


Vincent and Theo
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1990     Rating:  PG-13
Actors:  Tim Roth, Paul Rhys, Adrian Brine
Topics:  Psychopathology, Mood Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics
Biography of Vincent Van Gogh and his brother who supported him. Clearly Vincent experienced depression, and some believe that the impetus to cut off his ear came from Meniere’s Disease, which can cause unbearable ringing in the ear. 


Virgin Suicides, The
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1999     Rating:  R
Actors:  James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Krsten Dunst
Topics:  Psychopathology, Mood Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics
What lead to the multiple suicides by sisters? Loss of innocence? Family dysfunction? Much room for interpretation. Consider the reactions by the neighbor boys, who are trying to figure out this mystery. Read my article on motivations for suicide in the movies. 


Weather Man, The 
Genre:  Drama/Comedy     Year:  2005     Rating:  R
Actors:  Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, Hope Davis
Topics:  Psychopathology, Mood Disorders, Personality Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics
Another “man’s search for meaning film.” Serious, yet with plenty of comedy to keep you entertained. Consider the weatherman’s diagnosis – dysthymia? Depressive PD? Also, what’s your interpretation of the father (Michael Caine)? Some reviewers saw him as a negative character – I disagree and found him to be as supportive as he could be, while recognizing his son’s failings.


What About Bob 
Genre:  Comedy     Year:  1991     Rating:  PG-13
Actors:  Richard Dreyfuss, Bill Murray, Julie Hagerty
Topics:  Psychopathology, Personality Disorders, Treatment, Marital/Family Dynamics
Cute movie with Richard Dreyfuss as the competent (or burned out?) psychotherapist and Bill Murray as the patient (who seems to have more insight…). Note the difference in perception of Bob between the therapist and his family. Has its flaws, but is a fun film.


What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
Genre:  Drama/Comedy     Year:  1993     Rating:  PG-13
Actors:  Johnny Depp, Leonardo diCaprio, Juliette Lewis
Topics:  Psychopathology, Mood Disorders, Neuropsychology, Developmental, Marital/Family Dynamics, Stress and Coping
Slice of life film, with Johnny Depp as the young adult caring for his family – a depressed, morbidly obese mother, a brother with a developmental disorder, and two sisters. Somehow, he manages it all. Good movie.


When a Man Loves a Woman
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1994     Rating:  R
Actors:  Andy Garcia, Meg Ryan, Ellen Burstyn
Topics:  Psychopathology, Substance Use Disorders, Marital/Family Dysfunction, Treatment 
Story of alcoholic wife and mother, her treatment, and her relationship with her husband.


Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1966     Rating:  NR-PG-13
Actors:  Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal
Topics:  Psychopathology, Personality Disorders, Mood Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics 
Academy Award winner for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. Alcohol abuse, dysthymia, narcissism, conversion disorder, marital dysfunction, and wonderfully clever dialogue make this a must see. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton portray the older married couple whose fights are full of psychological barbs.


Woodsman, The 
Genre:  Drama     Year:  2004     Rating:  R
Actors:  Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick
Topics:  Psychopathology, Marital/Family Dysfunction, Social, Forensic 
This film is likely to generate significant discussion – there no doubt will be some who find it offensive (the producer received a gift-wrapped rat for Christmas during film production), and others who find it a thought-provoking piece about a taboo topic. The film is likely best appreciated if watched without a “heads up” – Stop reading if you want to avoid spoilers …. Kevin Bacon is terrific portraying the torment of a pedophile released after 12 years in prison. He develops a relationship with a tough woman with her own history. He struggles with his continuing impulses, wishing to be “normal,” as he works with a therapist. From a diagnostic perspective, consider that he is able to have “normal” sex with his girlfriend, the difference between him and sexual sadists, such as the one described by the cop in the film, and the role that stress played in his impulses, parallels with OCD? A thinker’s film with many metaphors throughout and unsaid story components (e.g., we have a sense of how pedophiles are treated in prison). I’m not sure if this were intentional (perhaps yes, as the same producer made Monsters Ball) – the authority figures in the film, with the exception of the therapist, were all African-American: boss, secretary, cop. Is this a social commentary about the relative social positioning of pedophiles in a biased society, even if white? Looking for a film to analyze for class? This one is loaded with material.