Film Review: Where were you on the night of February 28th?

Amy Gottlieb, MA, LMFT

The 88th annual Academy Awards show is now behind us. Some of you thoroughly enjoyed what you saw. Others couldn’t have been less interested. Some of you watch the Oscars each year for the fashion and to “star gaze”. While still others wouldn’t miss it because they feel invested year after year in which awards will be given to whom. There are those who boycotted the show this year, because once again, not a single person of color was nominated, and you didn’t want to support this exclusionary practice. Some of the politically minded of you didn’t boycott, but tuned in hoping for powerful commentary from host Chris Rock and others about this being the second year in a row that minority actors have been shut out of the biggest film awards show of the year.

On another topic related to the Academy Award nominated films of the year, as therapists, many of us are fascinated by the portrayals of characters not unlike our clients (or ourselves!) going through major life challenges. While you may not have a client who has been to Mars and risked never being rescued (as depicted in The Martian), chances are you have worked with someone who has suffered sexual abuse, a trauma depicted in two nominated films this year: Spotlight, and The Room. It’s also possible you have worked with a client struggling with gender identity or sexual orientation, the themes in nominated movies The Danish Girl, and Carol. You may be working with someone who is being discriminated against at work due to societal prejudice, such as the protagonist of the best picture nominated films Trumbo, and Joy. Or maybe you have a client with painful parenting struggles, such as those we witnessed in Room, Carol, Joy, and Steve Jobs. And finally, who didn’t relate to the simple but oh so painful story of love and loss as depicted in the beautiful film Brooklyn?

While it’s the case that many people go to the movies to be entertained and just get away from it all, only a few of the nominated films provided that kind of escape: Mad Max, Star Wars, Ex Machina, The Martian, and Creed could be seen as being more action driven than issue driven; however, you can still find some thematic aspects in at least two of those film that also make statements about the human condition.

Whatever motivates your movie going, streaming, or renting, almost everyone I know loves to see movies. Sometimes those movies stimulate great discussions. I went to see Best Original Screenplay nominee, Inside Out, with a group of therapists, and after the film we went to a restaurant to discuss this sweet movie. First we discussed how much our child clients could benefit from seeing this film, and by the end of the discussion we agreed it would actually be good for all ages, as the film conceptualizes the way our emotions are governed in a very unique and clever way.

I would encourage you to welcome your clients’ movie experiences if they want to bring them into session. There are so many powerful films out there that clients will come into therapy referencing, wanting to discuss how strongly the film resonated with their own experiences and why. I have gone to see films before that I wasn’t originally planning on attending, but then decided to see because of how important it was to a client, which then enriched my ability to discuss the profound way the film impacted him/her.

So on the night of the Academy Awards, whether you won your office Oscar betting pool, came away from the show with an idea for a new hair-style, was moved to tears by one of the acceptance speeches, spent the evening with a good book, or decided to boycott the show because you loved Michael B. Jordan in Creed, Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation, Will Smith in Concussion, or felt strongly, as many did, that Straight Outta Compton deserved a best picture nomination, whatever it was you did the evening of February 28, I hope you enjoyed yourself.

Amy Gottlieb is always interested in any responses to her monthly articles about film and theatre as they relate to psychology. E-mail her at