The Sessions ****

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Running Time: 95 mins            Certificate: 15

Synopsis: In this true story Mark O’Brien, a polio survivor with an iron lung (John Hawkes) employs the services of a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) in order to lose his virginity. 

 

Virginity seems to be a recurring theme in movies – whether it’s losing it, keeping it or dealing with inner conflicts surrounding it. However The Sessions, based on a true story, provides a unique take on the subject through the eyes of polio survivor Mark O’Brien. 38 years old, confined to a gurney and connected to an iron lung for most of his day, Mark decides he wants to lose his virginity. With the help of his carers and priest, he seeks out a sex therapist who recommends he use a sex surrogate.

 

The film is very moving. While the subject matter had the potential to be rather clinical and preachy, the development of the characters and use of comedy adds a warmth to it. Mark is a character the audience can empathise with. While he is severely disabled, he is shown dealing with an issue that is universal: discovering his sexuality and learning to act on it. The situations he encounters along the way are real, from his initial awkwardness and embarrassment to his idealistic expectations of what the experience will be like.

 

Cheryl Cohen-Green (Helen Hunt) is a great character. During her sessions with Mark, her patience and good humour as well as her lack of shyness about her body allow Mark to explore things and eventually lose his virginity. Helen Hunt plays the character well, however John Hawkes is the actor that really stands out in this movie. Despite his character being confined to a gurney and unable to move, Hawkes’ portrayal of Mark is such that the audience will be rooting for him throughout the film.  The supporting cast also add to the viewing experience. Moon Bloodgood is entertaining and enjoyable to watch as Mark’s carer Vera, while William H Macy provides a lot of comic but heartfelt moments as Father Brendan, the supportive priest who encourages Mark to explore his sexuality despite being of a faith that would normally be against this.

 

Overall The Sessions was a great film to watch. Sex and disability don’t normally go hand in hand in the media so it was nice to see this dealt with in a sensitive but quirky way. A must see for anyone who likes films with “the human edge”.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

 

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