Sundance London 2019 Preview - Ask Dr Ruth
Dir: Ryan White
Starring Dr Ruth Westheimer
In the 1980s, sex therapist Dr Ruth Westheimer became a global TV sensation, and the butt of many a Robin Williams joke - “Here’s a woman talking about oral sex, and you know she doesn’t even eat pork. Warning!”
However, Dr Ruth’s impact was large and profound, forever changing the way sexuality was discussed publicly. This affectionate doc looks back at her life in a straightforward manner, from growing up and then fleeing Nazi Germany to her arrival in America to her rise as the little Jewish woman who said the word “penis” a lot.
The wartime period is brought to life via some beautiful animation, and what emerges is as much an immigrant’s tale as it is the story of a sex therapist who became known all over the world. In many ways, White’s movie is about Ruth Westheimer as a survivor, a word she refuses to use herself, as the movie takes her back to Switzerland where she was brought to after leaving Germany at the age of ten, and then to Israel to trace the reality of what became of her parents during the war.
It is a portrait that is both very funny and very moving, liberally spread with a vast array of archive TV footage. Throughout it all, Westheimer remains a powerhouse of activity as she hits her 90th birthday. By the end, this crowd pleasing and charming doc proves that Dr Ruth is remarkably good company.
Ask Dr Ruth plays Sundance London 2019 on June 2