Freud’s Last Session

Movie goers who have claimed big screen adaptations of stage plays are stilted may be ready to dismiss Freud’s Last Session, but I hope they give it a chance.  This two-hander between Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins (as neurologist Sigmund Freud) and Matthew Goode (as British author C.S. Lewis) is riveting and reminds viewers about the power of great acting.

The back-and-forth between the academics takes place shortly after the start of World War II.  An ailing Freud invites Lewis to discuss the existence of God, among other topics, after Lewis’ satirical book “The Pilgrim’s Regress” provokes Freud’s appreciative feelings towards the original source, John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress”.  While the two actors play off of each other well, it’s clear Hopkins (as he did recently in The Father) anchors this bottled story.  His interpretation of Freud’s quick-witted intellect is balanced excellently by staggered delivery;  suggesting that while Freud seems one step ahead in the conversation, he’s also held behind by his health.  Goode is a great partner, but the performance finds its own individuality as Lewis’ characterization gradually fleshes out.

Freud’s Last Session is broken up by flashbacks of Freud’s life in Vienna before fleeing with his daughter Anna (Liv Lisa Fries) to escape Adolf Hitler’s regime, a sensationally vivid dream of Freud’s, and Lewis’ experience serving during the First World War.  Screenwriters Mark St. Germain (who wrote the stage play the film is based on) and Matthew Brown (who directed the movie) are aware – maybe too aware – of the limitations they face with this source material.  However, no sweat or stress is felt by the audience.  The tangential side stories build on to the relationships that are happening outside closed doors, and Brown never loses focus of the conflict between his two main characters.

Freud’s Last Session is a sophisticated drama that will have viewers reflecting long after the film has finished.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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