The Sessions is a unique movie that might not be to everybody’s tastes. It’s based on the true story of polio survivor Mark O’Brien and his daily life living in an iron lung, which helps him breathe. Although the acting in the film is very good, the subject matter was hard to watch, and there was much nudity throughout as well.
Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes) agrees to write an article for a newspaper about sex and the disabled. He is 38 years old and has never had sex; even though his “parts” work well, he is unable to move his arms, hands, or legs, and in fact is confined to his iron lung most of the time – he can journey away from it only in 3 to 4 hour increments. He is referred to Cheryl (Helen Hunt), a sex surrogate who will work with him on becoming comfortable in his own body and with intimacy with women. Mark confides all this to his priest, Father Brendan (William H. Macy), who says that although the church typically frowns on sex before marriage, in this case “God could make an exception.” With Cheryl, Mark is able to get past his initial shyness and inexperience, and when their sessions come to an end they are both sad that they will have to discontinue seeing each other weekly.
John Hawkes was the cult leader in Martha Marcy May Marlene, and is completely unrecognizable here. He does a great job as O’Brien, and Helen Hunt does well, too, although we see a lot of her (full-frontal nudity) throughout the movie. My favorite character was actually William H. Macy as the priest, as he was able to bring some comic relief to the scenes he was in. Moon Bloodgood, too, plays John’s assistant, who bathes him and helps him with his day-to-day activities, and Rhea Perlman and Alan Arkin have small roles in the film as well.
Maybe see this movie. Fox Searchlight is known for producing unusual “indie” movies, and this one is no exception: the subject matter in it is often hard to watch and also very sad, near the end. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hawkes or Hunt nominated for awards for it, because of that, and I am predicting that other critics give it high ratings, which may in turn propel audiences to go see it.
The Sessions is in theaters today, November 2nd, and is rated R with a runtime of 95 minutes.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5.