“The Sessions” – PFF21 Movie Review By Zachary Marsh

Everybody someday, somehow, will either have sex or have already had sex. It’s an intimate and exhilarating experience to some, while it could be frightening and awkward for others. Imagine being paralyzed from the neck down and you want to lose your virginity before you die. That actually has happened before in the form of Mark O’Brian, a poet who got polio at age 6 and needs an iron lung to survive. At age 38 in the year 1988, Mark wanted to lose his virginity because he knew his time was coming to an end pretty soon. He hires a sex surrogate, a therapist who physically helps people achieve their sexual goals, to help him lose his v-card and experience women in the physical sense.

The real Mark O’Brian died in 1999 at age 49, and the entire story of this film is based on a true story. The director of the film Ben Lewin, a polio survivor himself, was inspired by the story to make a movie based on his time with the sex surrogate. That has become ‘The Sessions,’ the film that took Sundance by storm this past January and has since been getting a lot of Oscar buzz. Luckily, the Oscar buzz is well-deserved. This funny, poignant, and powerful dramady is sure to be one of the most memorable movies of 2012.

John Hawkes gives such an incredible performance as Mark O’Brian. Throughout the entire movie, Hawkes is constrained to a gurney, a bed, or an iron lung, which at first is a sad sight to see. As the audience gets to know Mark, they see him as a charming, funny, and innocent person rather than a paralyzed man confined to a bed. Hawkes’ performance definitely deserves all the attention he’s been getting, and hopefully he is nominated for this incredible role. Helen Hunt gives equally as bold of a performance as Cheryl, the sex surrogate who helps Mark on his journey into “manhood.”

She bares all both physically and emotionally, while at the same time gives an incredible performance that deserves as much attention as Hawkes is getting. William H. Macy was really good in the movie, but he wasn’t used a lot despite his big name. He had some funny moments in the film, always with Hawkes, whom which he had great chemistry with. Unfortunately Macy was underused in the film and the audience didn’t really get to know him a lot outside of the church, aside from one scene. Every actor and actress is good in the film, but its Hawkes and Hunt who really stand out among the others, and rightfully deserve so.

Ben Lewin, despite having worked in film before, has made his breakout film in the form of ‘The Sessions.’ It’s easy to tell how much passion he put into the making of this movie, and it clearly worked for him as he won the Audience Award (Dramatic) for the film and instantly got it picked up by Fox Searchlight. Like ‘The Intouchables’ and ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ before it, ‘The Sessions’ is a poignant, provocative, raunchy, and often funny movie that will touch the hearts of any who see it. This really was a bold project to take on for everyone involved due to its subject matter and the fact that this could have been a failure from the get go. Luckily the film stays fresh and consistent throughout, despite having some slow moments and an ending that didn’t exactly make me feel satisfied. Still though, the performances and the script are just enough to give ‘The Sessions’ a high recommendation. This may be the best “talk” that teens can have with their parents, and the parents won’t even have to do the talking!

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