Review by Cole Groth
Anthony Hopkins has had an incredible career resurgence in this last decade. After receiving the Oscar for his pitch-perfect turn as a dementia-addled father in The Father and becoming the oldest-ever winner of an acting Oscar, he's pumped out eight films. While these films have varying quality, one thing is undeniable: he's one of the greatest living actors. Freud's Last Session is similar to his recent films. It's a decent movie with an interesting enough script, but without Hopkins, it would fail.
Freud's Last Session is an adaptation of a stage play based on a book called The Question of God by Armand Nicholi. It follows a fictional meeting between the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud (Hopkins), and British author C.S. Lewis (Matthew Goode). The two engage in a series of back-and-forth discussions on the nature of God, politics, sexuality, and a great deal of other things. This comes at the end of Freud's life, giving him plenty of time to reflect, making this somewhat of a biopic of one of the most influential psychologists.
One of the problems of this kind of psychological discussion in film is that too many things are tackled, leaving many topics decidedly underdeveloped. This is where writer/director Matthew Brown misses the mark. It feels a little like he's trying to inject his own beliefs into those of these men, who have been very intricately detailed, and at times, it's too silly to take seriously. Freud and Lewis's theological discussions are incredibly corny in certain moments. That being said, there's a lot to take out of this. It's fun to play along with the film, listen to both sides of the argument, and see who you agree with.
As I've established, this film works primarily on Hopkins' performance. This is pretty much two hours of scene-chewing, and for those interested in these types of stage plays that consist of almost only dialogue, this will hit the right mark. Hopkins is balanced nicely with Goode's excellent performance as Lewis. The two spars at a believable pace and excellently embody their characters. Liv Lisa Fried, Jodi Balfour, and Jeremy Northam make up the supporting cast and are decent enough, neither sticking out for being particularly strong nor weak in their roles.
The ultimate issue with Freud's Last Session is that the script doesn't feel genuine enough. For starters, it feels like a pretty standard day in the lives of Freud and Lewis. The two engage in some interesting debate and leave. It's not quite impactful enough to feel like a movie. The debate the two engage in feels too blunt, especially given how they masterfully used language in their times. It's clear that this was written from a modern perspective, and sometimes, that makes the film feel too silly to be fully enjoyable. That said, there's still a lot of interesting stuff tackled in the screenplay, making it a net positive.
If you're a lover of Anthony Hopkins eagerly waiting for another outstanding performance from him, you won't be disappointed with this aspect of Freud's Last Session. The script manages to squeeze in a lot of psychological debate within two hours, but it's not polished enough to be as good as its potential. It's a little corny, overlong, and slightly dull, but it's still an interesting enough movie worthy of a watch for Hopkins alone.
Freud’s Last Session releases in theaters December 22.