Category Archives: Shrink at the Flicks

What is the psychology behind the characters, plots, and emotional resolutions in popular classic and modern films?

The Times presents our guest columnist Dr. Alvin Burstein, Professor Emeritus, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to help answer these questions.

Dr. Burstein currently serves on the faculty of the New Orleans-Birmingham Psychoanalytic Center where he moderates their Film & Discussion Series.

I’m Your Man

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD This self-described Rom Com surprises with its wit, and its depth. The frothy wit with which it  abounds is contrasted by flashes of tragic despair. German written and acted, with subtitles, directed by Maria Schrader, it more than merits its many awards. The female lead, Maria Egert, won […]

The Father

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD Aristotle, in The Poetics, defined tragedy as a medium that arouses pity and fear in the audience, a kind of catharsis. Florian Zeller, in his debut as a film director, adapts his play, Le Pere, to the screen in a remarkable reminder of a fate that is soul-shaking […]


A Review by Alvin G. Burstein Five years in the making, Charlène Favier’s debut 2020 film, Slalom, reflects contemporary “Me, Too” concerns. Brought into higher relief by the recent Senate testimony of several Olympic women gymnasts, and the concern about the uncertain fate of Chinese tennis champion, Peng Shuai, the movie is unsettlingly relevant. Watching […]


A Review by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD This 2007 film begins in pre-World War II Britain. It has two foci of action. One is Briony Tallis,  who bookends the film, appearing first as a thirteen-year-old, precociously involved in writing a  play, and again, three or four decades later, as an established writer. She is being […]


A Review by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD This 2021 movie is a re-make of the 1914 French film, La Famille Belier. Written and directed by Sian Heder, it is available in theatres and on Apple TV+, a streaming service that offers a free one-week trial of its $4.95/month service— of which I took advantage. Two […]


A Review by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD This is a film you should see. Don’t be put off by its eponymous title or by its starring Nicholas  Cage, with his predilection for operatic excess and personal foibles. I am not going to say much about the movie’s content, because it is a film to experience […]

Undine/Ondine – A Double Feature

by Alvin G. Burstein Antedating contemporary concerns about extra-terrestrials, many cultures have some variant of fascination with sea-dwelling humanoids, and feature tales about interactions between them and earthlings. Often they focus on sexual allure and associated danger. Examples are the  sirens that require Odysseus’ crew to bind him to a mast to keep him from […]

Quo Vadis, Aida?

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein In Michael Ignatieff’s 1993 book, Blood and Belonging, he explores a phenomenon described by Freud in his 1921 essay, Group Psychology, i.e., the capacity for closely related peoples to hate one another. Ignatieff chose to examine that notion by interviewing individuals in several  contemporary warring groups, including those in […]

Words on Bathroom Walls

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein When I moved to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville to direct the graduate program in  clinical psychology, my wife, who had graduated from that program, was eager for me to meet William S. Verplanck. When she began her studies there, he was the department head; during  his tenure, the […]

Elephant Song

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein When I was a fourth grader, my favorite aunt came to stay with us, awaiting bed availability for her in a psychiatric unit. She was in the grip of an involutional paranoid psychosis and the change in her terrified me. A pearls and white gloves, sweet-talking southerner, she was […]

Come True

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein This movie, an indie, the second effort by Anthony Scott Burns, who co-wrote, directed and filmed it, won favorable attention at Canada’s 2020 Fantasia Film Festival, and a positive rating by the rating accumulator Rotten Tomatoes. Ever since my childhood encounters with the Gothic tales of Edgar Allen Poe […]

Two of Us

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein This subtitled French film, available on Amazon Prime,written and directed by Filippo Meneghetti, is a debut effort that packs a jarring punch. Its exploration of a passionate relationship between two women at an age some French would delicately call “certain” shatters any presumption of attenuated sexuality in the elderly, […]

Enola Holmes

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD A lifelong addict to Conan Doyle’s fictional accounts of Sherlock Holmes, I am generally  intolerant of those adaptations that clash with my images of the sleuth and his trusted Dr.  Watson. The bakers dozen or so of Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce were marginally acceptable  to me. Their […]