While addressing C.S. or ‘Jack’ Lewis, Sigmund Freud wistfully says “I should try to make more sense of reality”. This is quite the lofty and vague thing to say in Matthew ‘Matt’ Brown’s Freud’s Last Session. Fictionalizing the last time Freud opened his home office to an anonymous Oxford don, Jack and Sigmund start out light. For example, Sigmund quotes Poe to Jack, but they move on to heavier topics like God, health, and sex.
The two also converse about two major topics that I shouldn’t leave out, the first being the Second World War. A radio announcement interrupts their theological debate, reminding Sigmund of a man with a God delusion whom he escaped from in 1938. The second topic is Freud’s daughter Anna (Liv Lisa Fries) who lives under the shadow of her omnipresent father. Freud’s Last Session has a female character, Dorothy (Jodi Balfour) trying to yank Anna from her co-dependency, and the film shows that they’re homosexuals.
Freud’s Last Session does its best as an adaptation of Mark St. Germain’s play. It belongs to a subgenre that I like more than most. What the film does specifically is use Anna as a b-plot to get it out of Sigmund’s study room. I understand that a character that gets fourth billing in any film will get less dimensions to them than, say, the film’s two leads. But it still turns Dorothy into a calmer version of Anna’s dream girl.
A better version of Freud’s Last Session can tap on its topics and make it relevant for contemporary audiences. There’s a lot here, like gender disparity as well as all kinds of disparities, or the baggage that people from all generations have. The film, sadly, doesn’t take advantage of any opportunities to make its characters and themes relatable. The first act, with Jack’s idealism, also feels like a film version of an LDS missionary coming up to you on a bus.
Freud’s Last Session shows young Jack’s (Rhys Mannion) experiences affecting his adult self. But alas, the film returns to God. God is one of those topics that don’t make for polite conversation unless those in the table make it right. Again, sadly, the characters here end up speaking like anyone having a conversation about religion that goes over the rails. They resort to ad hominems before Sigmund’s health stops the conversation that somehow resolves their conflict. There’s fifteen more minutes to this film but I checked out by then.
Watch Freud’s Last Session in select Canadian theatres.
- Rated: PG-13
- Genre: Drama
- Release Date: 1/12/2024
- Directed by: Matt Brown
- Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Jodi Balfour, Liv Lisa Fries, Matthew Goode, Rhys Mannion, Stephen Campbell Moore
- Produced by: Aoife O'Sullivan, Hannah Leader, lan Greisman, Matt Brown, Meg Thomson, Rick Nicita, Robert Stillman, Tristan Lynch
- Written by: Mark St. Germain
- Studio: 14 Sunset, CAA Media Finance, Last Session Productions, LB Entertainment, Subotica, Traveling Picture Show Company (TPSC), WestEnd Films