Freud’s Last Session: Thoughtful Discussion

When I heard about “Freud’s Last Session”, I contemplated what it would delve into. Rather than a film that simply documented historical facts about Sigmund Freud, this movie weaves together a fictional meeting between Freud and C.S.Lewis into the historical truths of both men’s lives with the events of World World II. The movie expounds into a thoughtful discussion of faith, belief, science and the trauma of both men, enhanced by skillful performances by Anthony Hopkins, Matthew Goode and Liv Lisa Fries. 

“Freud’s Last Session” is a drama film based on the stage play of the same name by Mark St. Germain, which itself is based upon the book The Question of God, by Armand Nicholi. The film was directed by Matthew Brown and written by St. Germain. In the film, a fictional meeting takes place between Sigmund Freud (Anthony Hopkins) and C.S.Lewis (Matthew Goode) two days after the start of World War II. The two men discuss matters of faith versus science, Lewis’ trauma from World War I, J.R.R. Tolkien and the Inklings, and the nature of Freud’s and Lewis’ relationships with other people, such as Freud’s daughter Anna, who is pathologically dependent on her father. The film raises questions of morality as Freud contemplates oral cancer and considers suicide rather than living with the pain. 


Part of what makes this film intriguing is the thoughtful discussion that takes place in the film between the two men, C.S. Lewis challenges Freud’s worldview, in particular his stance on religion while Freud challenges his faith in return. The discussion ranges in various directions and while the title of the film regards Freud, the film is equally about C.S. Lewis, delving into his past, his childhood with his brother and his friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien and the Inklings. But just as the film discusses Lewis, it also illustrates Freud’s past, in particular his relationship with his daughter Anna. It also touches upon the losses he’d experienced with one of his other daughters and a grandson. The travails of both add to the thoughtfulness of the film.

There are subtle nuances to both the performances and the writing that create an intriguing drama. The references to Anna’s relationship with her partner Dorothy and her own work create conflict, especially as she puts off introducing Dorothy to her father. She also struggles with saying no to him, putting his needs ahead of her own career. The flow of the film, back and forth between the discussion of the two men and Anna, creates tension and adds intrigue to the film. The scenes with Anna made me want to know far more. 

Anthony Hopkins is witty and charismatic as Freud, his performance full of depth and insight. His rapport with Matthew Goode who plays Lewis is incredible. Matthew Goode is phenomenal as C.S. Lewis, serious and full of faith. His performance, from what I know of the writings of Lewis, is incredibly close to the man. Interestingly, the performance that stood out the most was Liv Lisa Fries as Anna. She was incredible as Anna and made me want to know more about the real person. I also enjoyed the performance of Jodi Balfour who played Dorothy, her partner. 

While the film’s thoughtful discussion is intriguing and thought provoking, the pacing of the film is very slow. The theological talk is interesting but it is mostly two men talking. And while there is some drama, most of that is with Anna and concerning Freud’s diagnosis of oral cancer. It is not as riveting as a film that has more action but the moral questions, the discussion of faith versus science will be intriguing to the right audiences.

If you like Anthony Hopkins or are curious about Sigmund Freud or C.S. Lewis, I would recommend this film. The thoughtful discussion between such historical figures, whether real or not, would have been as astounding as this film. The revelations about Anna were especially intriguing and are worth a film all on their own. I love the logic Freud displays about relationships and the fascination both men have surrounding religion and the choice to have faith in a difficult world. The performances are beautiful and the dialogue profoundly good. If you like films with discussion and a slower pace, this film is worth checking out. I loved the performances and want to learn more about Anna Freud.

Rating: 4.5 philosophies. 

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