Having been born in the early 80’s, I seem to remember pretty much always knowing who Dr. Ruth was. I’m not sure exactly when I was first introduced to the spritely German doctor who was one of the first people to ever say “clitoris” on television. However, I can’t really imagine a time when I didn’t know she existed.
Dr. Ruth Westheimer, now in her 90’s, is still going strong. She has tons of public appearances, t Documentarian and narrative filmmaker Ryan White (The Case Against 8, Serena) follows Dr. Ruth around the world. She takes him to the site of the orphanage in Switzerland where she was raised after being separated from her family in the Holocaust. They go to Israel where Ruth lived with her first husband. And they, of course, tour around New York City, where Dr. Westheimer has lived for many, many years in the same apartment.
“…the spritely German doctor who was one of the first people to ever say ‘clitoris’ on television.”
One of the unique parts of Ask Dr. Ruth are the animated sequences used to portray her childhood and teen years before and after WWII and the Holocaust. The animation, by Neko Productions, was created by a team of artists from all corners of the world including Italy, Poland, Bulgaria, The Philippines, etc. It gives a dreamlike quality to a past that Dr. Ruth is far removed from chronologically but still lives in her brain and soul like it was yesterday.
It is wonderful to see Dr. Ruth’s arc as a champion for the underdog. She always spoke out about abortion, AIDS, and a lot of uncomfortable topics before they became socially acceptable. She was a trailblazer for reproductive and gay rights. She is still doing the same work today, and hopefully will be for years to come.
“….gives more people insight into her storied career who didn’t have the privilege to grow up in her omnipresent era.”
Ask Dr. Ruth is a lovely tribute to the renowned sex therapist, but it’s not blazing any trails of its own as its subject matter has. As a documentary, it’s pretty formulaic, however it is incredibly entertaining. I especially enjoy when Dr. Ruth tells White he is asking stupid questions. She also always asks everyone if they’ve eaten. There’s a whole slew of outtakes shown at the end, during the credits that highlight more of the eccentric part of the doctor’s personality.
I think that this film is definitely worth watching, if only to learn more about the legend. I hope that this film gives more people insight into her storied career who didn’t have the privilege to grow up in her omnipresent era. Dr. Ruth was a Holocaust survivor, an orphan, a single mother and still made it really big to help people around the world. A lot of people could benefit from that knowledge who are on their own difficult life journeys.
Ask Dr. Ruth (2019) Produced and Directed by Ryan White. Starring Dr. Ruth Westheimer.
6 out of 10 stars