Freud’s Last Session

Freud's Last Session
Has solid performances by Anthony Hopkins and Matthew Goode, but plot seems to lack substance, as evidenced by a heavy reliance on flashbacks and an unneeded subplot.

Freud’s Last Session

Release Date: January 12, 2024
Runtime: 01:48
The movie’s story sees Freud invite iconic author C.S. Lewis to debate the existence of God. And his unique relationship with his daughter, and Lewis’ unconventional relationship with his best friend’s mother.

Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis debate the existence of God on the eve of World War II in Freud's Last Session. On September 3, 1939, England declared war against Germany. Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud () has recently fled from Vienna to London, though he is slowly dying from mouth cancer, which constantly worries his daughter Anna (). Freud has invited over Oxford Professor C.S. Lewis (), a burgeoning author, who has recently converted from Atheism to being a “Christian apologist.” Throughout the day, the two debate the pros and cons of having faith in Religion and how these beliefs tie to their past experiences.

Freud's Last Session Synopsis

Freud's Last Session is a drama directed by Matthew Brown (The Man Who Knew Infinity), based on the play of the same name by Mark St. Germain, which in turn is based on the 2003 book The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life, by Armand Nicholi. The film stars Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins (The Father) and Matthew Goode (The Imitation Game, Stoker) as Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis, respectively. The bulk of the plot consists of a day-long debate between the two, as they argue about whether God exists. A staunch Atheist, Freud points towards the rise of the Nazis and the loss of his daughter and grandchild as reasons why God cannot exist. C.S. Lewis meanwhile, became a believer following the First World War, thanks to the influence of his colleague J.J.R. Tolkien ().

The film also features a subplot involving Freud's daughter Anna, a developing psychoanalyst in her own right, who has been making accusations of having an “attachment disorder,” due to her putting the care of her cancer-stricken father above all else. Anna is also a closeted lesbian in a relationship with her friend Dorothy Burlingham (, Ted Lasso). This causes tension in Anna's relationship with her father, who is shown in flashbacks as being quite reluctant to analyze Anna's desires.

My Thoughts on Freud's Last Session

Considered the “father of psychoanalysis,” I'm surprised there haven't been more films about Sigmund Freud, with the last notable one arguably being David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method from 2011, which saw play a much younger depiction of Freud as seen in this film. Freud's Last Session takes place mere weeks before Sigmund Freud's death in September 1939 and he spends much of the film pondering his imminent demise, which includes eyeing a cyanide pill that he keeps on his person.

Both Anthony Hopkins and Matthew Goode give solid performances in the film and Freud's Last Session is best when the focus is on the religious debate between Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis. However, the film seems to have an overreliance on flashbacks to fill in the gaps between the narrative. This includes showing why Freud was forced to flee Vienna, as C.S. Lewis develops a “friendship” with Janie Moore (), the mother of Lewis's friend who died during the First World War.

In addition, the subplot in Freud's Last Session about Anna Freud's “attachment disorder” with her father, as she desperately tries to find an open pharmacy to acquire his morphine prescription, seems to belong in a different movie. The film hints that despite Sigmund Freud's liberal views about homosexuality, he does not approve that Anna is a lesbian. I'm not sure how big a role Anna plays in the original play, but her role in the film does feel out of place.

Ultimately, Freud's Last Session is a film that can be considered an awards season also-ran. While it's fun seeing Anthony Hopkins play out the eccentricities of Sigmund Freud, this is a film that is unlikely to leave much of a lasting impression.

Trailer for Freud's Last Session

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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