Ask Dr. Ruth (2019) – Summary, Review (with Spoilers)

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In trekking from her childhood in Germany to her 90th birthday, Ask Dr. Ruth shows resiliency doesn’t have to kill your curiosity or smile.


Director(s) Ryan White
Screenplay By N/A
Date Released 6/1/2019
Genre(s) Documentary
Good If You Like Dr. Ruth

Learning About The Holocaust & Its Effect On Survivors

Isn’t For You If You Aren’t Interested In Dr. Ruth & Her Story
Noted Cast
Herself Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer
Ruth (Voice Over) G.K. Bowes

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Ask Dr. Ruth Plot Summary

Ask Dr. Ruth leads up to the sex and relationship therapist recent birthday by covering her journey from Germany to becoming an orphan in Switzerland and her later relocation to Palestine, Paris, and eventually the United States. All while noting, and introducing, her first love, first time having sex, her time as a scout and sniper, and her journey into becoming a world-renowned doctor on sex and sexuality. One phone call, and courageous moment, at a time.

 

Highlights

The Animation

Similar to He Named Me Malala, animation is used to give life to moments that either don’t have pictures to associate with or would be too much for Dr. Ruth to recount on camera. Especially since her upbringing taught her to not cry in public. And while the animation replaces Dr. Ruth temporarily, even to the point of featuring another person’s voice, it complements the real-life Dr. Ruth well as it matches her jubilant energy. Also, one could argue, since Dr. Ruth keeps things on the up and up, you’re allowed a certain emotional connection to the animation that the real Dr. Ruth doesn’t allow.

While Dr. Ruth Avoids The Tears, You Can’t

Building off of that, while Dr. Ruth is open about her past, be it first time having sex, ex-husbands, and nearly losing her legs, she remains a public figure of the old school variety. One who is personable enough to like, but never a blubbering mess. This includes when we learn what happened to her parents. And while her keeping that wall up creates a slight disconnect, it reminds you that we’re not owed someone’s darkness.

What I mean by that is, in other documentaries covered, be it Beyoncé’s or Misty Copeland’s, the wall being up feels strange, makes you feel like someone is protecting or brand or product more than a person maintaining some sense of privacy. With Ask Dr. Ruth, be it because her pain stems from the Holocaust or she is a public figure whose public persona and private isn’t treated as one and the same, it is different. In fact, she forces you to realize how much of a privilege it is she does open up to you and reminds you of when knowing a public figure’s personal life wasn’t an expectation but a gift. Something seen as a big deal and not a simple Google search.

Making it so, even though we don’t see a tear on her face, or more than a moment of shock, you may find yourself crying the tears she won’t show on screen. Especially as you hear from her kids, even grandkids, how little she talks about that time. Never mind, despite going through all that, being so open, joyful, and using that pain to inspire a need to understand others. To bring them some kind of peace.

Overall: Positive (Worth Seeing)

Get Tickets on Fandango | Purchase, Rent, or Get Merchandise On Amazon

While Ask Dr. Ruth won’t change your life, if you are a curious fan, it gives you insight into her rise to fame and an understanding of her foundation. And while she doesn’t connect with the audience emotionally, between the animation and strength of her spirit, you find other ways to feel like you are getting something sacred and sharing a moment. Hence the positive label. Ask Dr. Ruth both allows its subject to maintain their public persona while presenting a person willing to be open and vulnerable with fans. Thus leading to a good reason to have Hulu as one of your subscriptions.

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