What might have happened had the resolutely atheist father of psychoanalysis met the Christian author and apologist who created Narnia? The literate philosophical drama “Freud’s Last Session” (Sony Pictures Classics) speculates on just such an encounter with intriguing, though ultimately unsatisfying, results.

Invited to visit prickly Dr. Sigmund Freud (Anthony Hopkins) at the London home where he has taken refuge from the Nazis, buttoned-up Oxford don C.S. Lewis (Matthew Goode) arrives there on the historic autumn day Britain declared war against Hitler’s Germany in 1939. In between monitoring the news on the radio, the two engage in a prolonged theological debate.

Director and co-writer Matthew Brown’s adaptation of his script collaborator Mark St. Germain’s play – itself derived from the book “The Question of God” by Armand Nicholi – uses the ensuing discussion as a jumping off point for exploring the duo’s disparate life experiences. Lewis, for instance, recalls his emotionally absent father while Freud remembers how forceful his dad was.

The screenplay also examines Freud’s highly complicated relationship with his daughter, and professional heir, Anna (Liv Lisa Fries). One ironic aspect of their intense but tangled connection is Freud’s disapproval of Anna’s romance with her colleague Dorothy Burlingham (Jodi Balfour). Though Freud’s view of sexuality was famously indulgent, this didn’t, apparently, apply to Anna.

The discreet but sympathetic presentation of Anna’s love life, which implicitly points to Freud’s hypocrisy on the subject, is balanced by the fact that Lewis is not demonized for his moral objection to all same-sex activity. This is of a piece with the traditional, scripturally-based view of marriage he espouses.

Sober in tone and weighty in its subject matter – Freud is facing imminent death from jaw cancer – the picture is more intent on laying out the arguments than guiding viewers toward any conclusion. While both sides get a fair hearing, the wrap-up, although dramatically well-rounded, feels intellectually incomplete.

What, some moviegoers may wonder, was the point of the whole exercise? On the upside, at least the two principals maintain an air of mutual respect and enjoy some humorous moments together. Overall, this is unusually intelligent fare, though some may find it a bit talky and – an interlude set in the trenches of World War I aside – somewhat stagebound.

The film contains mature themes, including lesbianism and suicide, a combat sequence with some gore, brief sensuality, at least one use of profanity, several milder oaths and a crass expression. The OSV News classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

—John Mulderig, OSV News