ASK DR. RUTH – Review by Cate Marquis

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Dr. Ruth Westheimer always looked like an unlikely on-air sex therapist, which may have been part of her success. The documentary Ask Dr. Ruth is not about her advice but her even more unlikely personal story.

Did you know she is a Holocaust survivor? Is an avid skier? Was a sniper in the Israeli armed forces?

Yeah, neither did I.

And those are just a few of the surprising facts about the tiny, smiling grandma we know as the world’s most famous sex therapist.

Ask Dr. Ruth does go into some of Dr. Ruth’s career and rise to fame as a radio/TV sex therapist, but those facts are better known. Her personal is much less known but given how dramatic that life turns out to be, that is kind of surprising.

Born in Germany, the only child of doting Jewish parents, her parents sent her to Switzerland with other children on a Kindertransport after Hitler came to power.

Director Ryan White uses interviews with Dr. Ruth, her friends and family, as well as archival photos and footage. There are plenty of things we didn’t know about Dr. Ruth and a few jaw-dropping revelations in this engrossing documentary.

For Dr. Ruth’s childhood and youth, where little remains other than a journal she kept in Switzerland, the director uses charming animated sequences, which are entertaining as they are informative, with Dr. Ruth narrating.

As one might expect, Dr. Ruth is frank about what she wants to share but slyly warns us she does not share everything. What she does share makes for a documentary that is both wonderful, frank and warm, like Dr. Ruth herself.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ask Dr. Ruth is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for May 24, 2019

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Cate Marquis

Cate Marquis is a film critic and historian based in the St. Louis, Missouri area. Marquis reviews film for the St. Louis Jewish Light weekly newspaper and Playback: stl website, as well as other publications. The daughter of artist Paul Marquis, she was introduced to classic and silent films by her father, as well as art and theater. Besides reviewing films, she lectures on film history, particularly the silent film era, has served on the board of the Meramec Classic Film Festival and is a long-time collaborator with the St. Louis International Film Festival, serving on various juries.