Movie: FREUD'S LAST SESSION
Rating: PG-13, thematic material, some bloody/violent images, sexual material and smoking
Release Date: December 22, 2023
Jeanne: On September 3, 1939, as Adolph Hitler invades Poland and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declares war on Germany, Dr. Sigmund Freud (Anthony Hopkins) meets with an Oxford Don to discuss science, faith, love and the human condition. FREUD’S LAST SESSION was never verified, but many believe Freud’s visitor was author/Oxford theologian C.S. Lewis (Matthew Goode), best known for “The Chronicles of Narnia”.
Having to flee Vienna, Austria, because of Hitler, Freud and his wife and daughter, Anna (Liv Lisa Fries), escaped to London. Anna has worked tirelessly to make their new home resemble the one they left behind, but Freud, at age 83, is frustrated and misses his beloved Vienna.
He's also suffering from jaw cancer and Anna is the only one he allows to help. The pressure on her is immense, as she is also a psychoanalyst and has started a center for child psychology with her lover, Dorothy Tiffany Burlingham (Jodi Balfour), of the Tiffany’s & Co. family. But her demanding father will not accept this liaison, which further complicates his relationship with Anna.
And now, C.S. Lewis is in his home and Freud is keen to pick Lewis’ brain regarding a myriad of topics --- specifically his views on God and theology. Lewis, a former atheist, has converted to Christianity and possesses some very strong opinions on what comes after
death. With Freud facing his own mortality, the discussions explore questions facing not only these two highly educated men, but all of us.
Written and directed by Matthew Brown, based on the play of the same name by Mark St. Germain, FREUD’S LAST SESSION makes the most of the immense talent of Hopkins --- and Goode. This is a quiet film with a great deal of conversation between these two superb actors, but it is never boring.
Brown and St. Germain’s dialogue is cogent and thought provoking. And it definitely helps when you have a revered actor like Hopkins delivering your lines. It’s a role perfectly designed for him, especially in his advanced years. He and Goode, who is equally up to the task, share a marvelous chemistry. It was a stroke of genius by Brown to cast them together ---- and Goode, in his own words at our screening, was thrilled to be able to work with Hopkins.
Fries is also excellent as the beleaguered progeny of this brilliant trailblazer. And Balfour does a fine job as the side-lined lover who must wait her turn for Anna’s affections. It’s a small part and yet pivotal in this story.
Amazingly enough, not only is Hopkins a master at acting, he’s also a concert pianist --- and composer. A few of the piano pieces in the movie were written by Hopkins and they are divine. Just one more reason to see FREUD’S LAST SESSION.
Opinion: See It Now!
David: Any film that features two exemplary actors deserves to be seen, and that is the case with FREUD’S LAST SESSION. Two-time Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins and the much-decorated Matthew Goode star as Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis respectively. At Freud’s invitation, Lewis joins him at home where the meeting takes place on September 3, 1939.
FREUD’S LAST SESSION is dialogue driven as these two great minds debate the existence of God and other questions. However, director Matthew Brown, who wrote the screenplay for FREUD’S LAST SESSION based on Mark St. Germain’s dramatic play, has infused multiple scenes of the past from the lives of all the characters. Thus, the film never gets bogged down with only high-level conversations.
Brown is convinced that his movie is timely. In the world of 2023, does anyone really discuss opposite beliefs in any true fashion? And with the story taking place on precisely the day that England declared war on Germany for invading Poland, today’s parallels about dictators and authoritarian wannabes seeking greater power are that much more relevant.
In truth, FREUD’S LAST SESSION really requires a second viewing because it packs so much material into a short time. The discussions between Freud and Lewis are augmented by the lesbian relationship of Freud’s daughter, Anna (Liv Lisa Fries) and her collaborator in child psychology, Dorothy Burlingham (Jodi Balfour).
Another complication is that of Lewis’ relationship with Janie Moore (Orla Brady). She was the mother of Lewis’ best friend Paddy who was killed while the two served in World War I. The friends made an agreement to watch out for the other’s last remaining parent should anything happen to one of them, but clearly a romantic relationship could not be foreseen.
FREUD’S LAST SESSION may be largely fictional since it was never proven that Lewis was his visitor. However, one aspect of the movie that is true is Freud suffering from jaw cancer, living in excruciating pain and talking about suicide. In real life, he actually died 20 days after the date FREUD’S LAST SESSION takes place having asked his physician to administer a deadly dose of morphine.
Brown’s film is laced with humor, a bit of relief among its heady discussions of life’s mysteries. Hopkins and Goode demonstrate that polar opposite views of religion, science and how the human mind works can still result in mutual respect and friendship. They are both quite remarkable.
Opinion: See It Now!