Director Matthew Brown delves into an intellectual fantasy with “Freud’s Last Session,” imagining a conversation between C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud at the psychoanalyst’s London home.
In this stage play turned film, Anthony Hopkins takes on the role of Sigmund Freud, portraying the famous “sex doc,” while Matthew Goode plays the converted atheist C.S. Lewis. The two iconic figures of 20th-century thought meet in early September 1939 to discuss topics such as God, father figures, and, of course, sex. Freud’s character, known for linking everything to sex, finds his cigar, a symbol as potent as Chekhov’s proverbial gun. This prop eventually steers the conversation toward faith, sidelining a more engaging debate.
Director Matthew Brown, known for “The Man Who Knew Infinity,” has attempted to bring the play by Mark St. Germain to the screen, introducing flashbacks from their childhoods and diversions, taking away from the expected lively exchange between Freud and Lewis. A fictional tête-à-tête between these great minds demands captivating dialogue.
The movie provides the liberty of bringing Lewis into Freud’s inner sanctum, where the ailing psychoanalyst struggles with mouth cancer and frequently reaches for morphine. The film also imagines Freud’s interaction with his daughter, Anna, during her detention by Nazi officers, adding depth to the narrative.
While Freud’s influence on psychology is immense, many remain unaware of his personal biography and his complex relationship with his daughter. These intriguing details are packed into a film that should have remained a focused dialogue between Freud and Lewis.
As the God-centered debate reaches a stalemate, the subplot about Anna and her fixation on her father takes over, providing closure. The film respects both men’s beliefs, showcasing their eloquent arguments without taking sides.
“Freud’s Last Session” offers intellectual stimulation, a welcome departure from mindless entertainment, but it may not resonate deeply with the soul. The film honors Lewis’s spiritual journey and recreates his conversion, but it refrains from sparking controversy or provocative dialogue, leaving the audience with an engaging yet restrained intellectual conversation.
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