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Home > Freud’s Last Session (2023): A Review

Freud’s Last Session (2023): A Review

Freud’s Last Session (2023): A Review

A Debate Between Two of the Greatest Minds

Based on the play written by Mark St. Germain, which was based on the book The Question of God by Armand Nicholi, Freud’s Last Session depicts a fictional meeting between Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis. At the start of World War II, Lewis visits Freud to discuss various matters, but mainly to debate the existence of God. The film is directed by Matthew Brown and written by Brown and Mark St. Germain. 

Pitting the Two Minds Against Each Other

It’s rare when a film that’s centered mainly in a single location comes along and is truly engaging. Movies such as 1957’s 12 Angry Men or 2002’s Phone Booth have been engaging and gripping, focusing purely on a conversation while set within a confined area. While Freud’s Last Session doesn’t occur entirely in a single location, the bulk of the film pivots on the debate between Lewis and Freud. This is where the weight is placed mainly on the two lead performers, with the actors being able to carry the film.

Anthony Hopkins stars as Sigmund Freud and provides yet another outstanding performance, on the same level as his turn as Dr. Hannibal Lecter or his role in 2020’s The Father. Hopkins brings an elegant yet humorous charm that makes Freud engaging on screen. While Matthew Goode provides a suitable performance as C.S. Lewis, at times it seems as if Hopkins steals all of the focus in their scenes together. Examining Goode’s performance, Lewis is still presented in a compatible and engaging way, but the majority of the moments between Freud and Lewis come from the former. 

The Breaking of Conversation

While the dialogue between Lewis and Freud is handled well, there is a glaring frustration. Instead of being one continuous conversation that flows in and out of various topics, the discussion is intercut at various times, breaking the momentum built up during certain scenes. When the characters begin their dialogue, topics range from the existence of God to sex, suffering, and more. Their dialogue is some of the most engaging scripted moments seen on the big screen in a while. 

Just as the dialogue builds, there are moments of tension cut by the characters being interrupted, or the film cutting to a flashback, or focusing on another character. It leaves some of this engaging dialogue feeling half-baked, as the interruptions prevent them from being fully fleshed out. Another problem comes from the lack of Lewis’s presence in the exchange. Freud brings a dominating presence, whereas Lewis is more passive in the film. Lewis certainly gets a few great highlights and quotes, but the majority of the hard-hitting moments come from Freud. While Hopkins’ character dominates over Goode, the script still helps to punch Freud up.

Freud’s Last Session (2023): A Review
Anthony Hopkins and Matthew Goode in “Freud’s Last Session” | Image: Sony Pictures Classic

The Gloomy Hue

Upon viewing Freud’s Last Session, an obvious first impression is the murky tint of the color scheme. While at times it fits with the gloomy backdrop of World War II, it also occasionally comes across as a little extreme. During some of the flashback or dream-like sequences, characters find themselves in the woods, for whatever reason. In these settings, the color scheme doesn’t always mix well, making the film feel cheaper. 

Conversely, there are numerous times when the darker hue helps invocate the serious and dark tone of the subject matter. With World War II brewing in the background of the story and the two characters discussing heavy subject matter, the coloring helps to reflect these feelings. This mixes to create an odd tension in the film, as the color schemes both help to enhance the experience at times while taking away from it in other moments. 

Graceful Directing

Dealing with sensitive subject matter, such as morality and the existence of God, it would have been easy to mishandle and spoil the whole project. However, Matthew Brown’s direction shows a tasteful balance between the two opposing viewpoints without ever pandering to one side. As it would be easy for audiences on opposing viewpoints to perceive the film as lukewarm, it makes it easy for the story to appeal to agnostics without giving the feel of a push to one side or another. It also allows for those standing behind Freud or Lewis to feel as if their opinions were properly represented. 

By staying neutral, it truly makes the film come off as an actual philosophical debate without the creators injecting their beliefs. In a world where numerous films have tried to tackle this subject matter before, they usually crumble under the weight of trying to force the audience to think the way they do, rather than trying to get theatergoers to think for themselves. This is one of the shining aspects of Freud’s Last Session, that it doesn’t treat viewers as idiots or find ways to impose certain beliefs on them. Rather, the movie asks them to consider both Freud’s and Lewis’s stances and reflect on them long after the credits roll. 

Freud’s Last Session is currently playing in select theaters.

Freud’s Last Session (2023): A Review
Matthew Goode in “Freud’s Last Session” | Image: Sony Pictures Classic

Freud’s Last Session (2023) Official Sony Pictures Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Mason Kupiainen is a recent Butler University graduate with a degree in Creative Media and Entertainment. His work has been published in Butler Collegiate, The Mall, and Byte BSU. Along with written work, he has a videography portfolio with Indy Blue Video, Byte BSU, and Ball Bearings.
Cailen Fienemann is a current student at Le Moyne College pursuing her BA in English and Communications with a film studies minor and a creative writing concentration.  Though uncertain about her career end-goals, any job that allows her to write is a cherished one indeed.