Freud’s Last Session Review
Freud’s Last Session (2023) Film Review, a movie directed by Matt Brown, written by Mark St. Germain and Matt Brown and starring Anthony Hopkins, Matthew Goode, Jodi Balfour, Orla Brady, Stephen Campbell Moore, Liv Lisa Fries, Rhys Mannion, Padraic Delaney, David Shields, Tarek Bishara, Arndt Schwering-Sohnrey, Nina Kolomiitseva, Lukas Heyer Sweeney, Emmet Kirwan, Anna Amalie Blomeyer, George Lenz and Esther Ayo James.
Set mostly in 1939 on the cusp of World War II, Anthony Hopkins digs into the role of Sigmund Freud in a compelling new drama, Freud’s Last Session. Playing author C.S. Lewis in the film is Matthew Goode and although Goode does deliver a strong performance, there is something about playing opposite a screen legend like Hopkins that makes it difficult for another actor to shine as bright. The majority of this movie consists of an imagined conversation between two huge figures in history. We have Freud, the father of psychotherapy, and Lewis, an author who penned the Narnia books.
In this film, both Lewis and Freud deliver arguments that defend their respective standpoints convincingly. For some reason, Freud always seems to present a stronger case. Director Matt Brown has fashioned a film that interweaves the past and the present of our main characters’ lives to show how they became the historical figures that they are known to be. The movie also explores the daughter of Freud, Anna (Liv Lisa Fries)’s relationship with a woman and Anna’s own professional ambitions as well.
Freud is suffering from oral cancer in the picture and reveals personal losses to Lewis that make Freud doubt the existence of God. Lewis tells Freud that religion allows for the inclusion of science but science doesn’t allow for the inclusion of religion. So, the two men get in bouts of verbal fights where Freud explains things in life that don’t seem to be possible if there was such a thing as the divine inspiration of God. These parts of the movie are repetitive but fans of philosophy will revel in watching them.
In flashbacks, we see Freud as a young boy (played by Lukas Heyer Sweeney) and learn of his troubled past. The scenes that examine Freud’s past are more interesting than the ones that delve into Lewis’s own history. The sequences between Hopkins and Goode are always fascinating to watch such as when there is a drill where our characters must go into a shelter and Freud is tremendously frightened. Lewis becomes a companion of sorts to Freud but the pair clash more often than not.
There are effective moments that display Lewis’s affections for a mom named Janie Moore (Orla Brady) but they seem to be meant for another type of movie altogether. Jodi Balfour is also featured as Anna’s girlfriend, Dorothy and the interaction between Anna and Dorothy is interesting thanks to the two performances by the respective actresses who play them.
However, the movie meanders more often than not with a lot of slow-moving scenes that seem to circle around the same topics. It’s almost like a college course where the professor is arguing with a student and it’s clear the student can’t win. Hopkins, as Freud, is convincingly created on-screen and Goode’s character can’t keep up with Freud in most instances. Lewis is a sympathetic character and feels more relatable for the audience but Hopkins commands attention much more than Goode in terms of the performances.
Pain and suffering are part of the human condition and that is conveyed through the conversations the movie employs in its story line. A funny bit has Freud talking about his dog and how the dog offers him assistance in the analysis of his patients. This movie does have some light moments amidst the deep, dramatic ones but, ultimately, the picture is not as strong as it could have been. Had more been done with the material, this film could have been a serious Oscar contender. This film needed to be polished a bit more. Perhaps more creative flair in the visuals during the argument scenes could have been of great help in creating more interest in the dialogue driven scenes. The topics are meaty enough and thought-provoking enough but the movie always feels like a filmed play instead of using the techniques of film that could have enhanced the material.
Still, Hopkins is marvelous here. He captivates the audience with his very presence. While we feel Freud’s pain and sorrow throughout, we can also understand Lewis’s humanity and compassion. The performances by the supporting cast adequately move the plot forward but the scenes with Hopkins are the very best ones in the picture. Overall, Freud’s Last Session is a good watch but it often feels like the movie needed a sharper edge all around. The movie reduces itself to words at the conclusion telling us about the history of the characters rather than showing more regarding what happened to them in their lives. What the movie does offer, however, is a chance to see Hopkins play Sigmund Freud with aplomb and that could be enough to get people into theaters. It’s certainly an accomplished performance.
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