Directed by: Ben Lewin
Written by: Ben Lewin (screenplay)
Starring: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy
After contracting polio, San Francisco journalist and poet Mark O’Brien (Hawkes) limits his social life to being scrubbed down roughly by his assistant, receiving writing jobs over the speaker of his phone, and occasionally having the company of his cat – all the while lying inside an iron lung or on a gurney. When Mark is given an assignment to write an article about sex for people with disabilities, it occurs to him that he himself is only two years away from becoming a 40 year old virgin. This is when sex surrogate – Cheryl (Hunt) – comes into the picture, and not only helps Mark achieve a milestone in his life’s story, but also touch the lives of those around him with his courage and deep capacity to experience love.
The Sessions is not the stuff of fiction. Writer-director Ben Lewin personally experienced the effects of polio as a child and the film is based on Mark O’ Brien’s essay, “On Seeing A Sex Surrogate”, which was published in 1990. With these things in mind, The Sessions delivers a story that is as charming and delightful as it is funny and sad, brimming with conviction and compassion that is rarely captured this effectively onscreen.
One of the most impressive qualities of the film is John Hawkes’ performance as Mark O’Brien. Transforming his body completely, along with his voice and the smallest of mannerisms, John Hawkes proves that he is an actor who has mastered a perfect balance of comic timing and emotional depth in creating a character. Alongside Hawkes, Helen Hunt also delivers a touching performance as the outwardly controlled sex surrogate whose inner vulnerabilities connect her to Mark.
More than simply a movie on sex, The Sessions is ultimately a celebration of life, love, and the importance of connection. In being courageous, in showing kindness, and in witnessing small miracles, Mark O’ Brien’s story in The Sessions will definitely inspire people to stop making excuses and really go for what they want in life.