Review: ‘Freud’s Last Session’

Anthony Hopkins and Matthew Goode Bring An Imaginary Debate Between Sigmund Freud And C.S. Lewis To Life

The whole conceit of Sony Picture Classics’ latest Oscar bait offering is that groundbreaking neurologist Sigmund Freud hosted an Oxford professor in his London home in 1939. It was the start of World War II and two weeks before the psychotherapist would take his own life. While it is unknown who this visitor was, Freud’s Last Session imagines this encounter as a religious and verbal match of wills between beloved British author C.S. Lewis and the atheist Freud. 

Based on Mark St. Germain’s stage play (which was based on the nonfiction book The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life), the film opens with Freud (Anthony Hopkins) waking up from his infamous therapy couch by his daughter, Anna, who readies him for the day. Hopkins plays the older man with commanding zeal, letting his arrogance guide the conversation. 

As Anna (Liv Lisa Fries) leaves him for the day, she runs into C.S. Lewis, who has been painfully aware of Britain’s impending war involvement on his journey into London. His introductions with Dr. Freud cut short as they quickly enter a debate over one of Lewis’ books. 

You can feel the film’s stage play origins when Freud and Lewis are sparring. Matt Brown doesn’t do much cinematic in those moments. However, when characters recall dreams or inner fantasies, he draws up some of the most beautiful images of the year. From forest scenes to the blueish hues of prewar London, Brown knows how to immerse his audience into the story. Those moments don’t seem to happen enough, as the story feels weighed down by the logos of their debate and not the pathos. 

Matthew Goode proves himself as a reliable character performer as Lewis. Squaring off against Hopkins is no easy feat, but the actor holds his own with quiet determinedness. Hopkins is at his most interesting when his character wrestles with his daughter’s lesbian relationship with fellow academic and future life partner, Dorothy Burlingham (Jodi Balfour). Holding on to the now-antiquated idea that her sexuality is due to a failing on his part, the veteran actor plays up the character’s struggle to balance his insecurities with his psychoanalytical knowledge.    

While the debate about God’s existence has been made before, Freud’s Last Session intellectualizes it in an accessible that humanizes these looming figures. In an overcrowded Oscar race, it’s doubtful this British period drama will grab any of the nominations but for a contemplative, quiet, and thoughtful drama that’s perfect for the Christmas season, Freud’s Last Session is just what the doctor ordered.

Freud’s Last Session is playing in theaters. Watch the trailer below.

'Freud's Last Session'
Cortland Jacoby
A D.C area native, Cortland has been interested in media since birth. Taking film classes in high school and watching the classics with family instilled a love of film in Cortland’s formative years. Before graduating with a degree in English and minoring in Film Study from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, Cortland ran the college’s radio station, where she frequently reviewed films on air. She then wrote for another D.C area publication before landing at Punch Drunk Critics. Aside from writing and interviewing, she enjoys podcasts, knitting, and talking about representation in media.
review-freuds-last-session'Freud's Last Session' can feel weighed down by its source material but Goode and Hopkin's thoughtful and riveting performances leave you satisfied.