The new documentary Ask Dr. Ruth, in theaters May 3, centers on the life of beloved sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer who, at age “90 and a half,” as she puts it, is still as delightful, irrepressible, and irreverent as ever. Westheimer rose to fame in the 1980s thanks to her frank, funny take on sexuality and the female orgasm. Today, she refuses to slow down as she nears the end of her incredible life; director Ryan White captures her as she travels the world, making appearances, attending birthday celebrations, and, yes, doling out sex advice. Her unbelievable joie de vivre is on display throughout: In one scene, she walks with a cane through a grassy knoll full of cow dung, stopping and and shrieking with delight: “Look! A cow!” Moments later: “Look! A rainbow!”
But the film has some darker moments, too. At one point, Westheimer travels to Yad Vashem to confirm, after decades of uncertainty, that after her parents sent her to a Swiss school for her safety the midst of the Nazis’ German occupation, they both perished in concentration camps. In the clip below, Westheimer digs out her old childhood journals and reads aloud the pleas she wrote to her parents, whom she never saw again after she left Germany. “Mummy, why are you not around?” wrote young Westheimer. “I will work for you, I would support you, I would make you a good life.” It’s a heartbreaking scene, and one that throws the rest of the film — and Westheimer’s unflagging optimism — into even sharper relief.