Previously nominated for his searing performance in Winter’s Bone, John Hawkes plays Mark O’Brien, a journalist and successful poet crippled from polio when he was only 6 that left him dependent on and living in an Iron Lung. Only The Sessions doesn’t concentrate on the anguish of his disability, but instead on Mark’s love life, and more specifically, the lack of his sex life.
We’ve all been there, brother
The trailers scream Oscar bait. Actors portraying those with severe disabilities and the women who have to break through their own tough exteriors to accept love. Good thing for The Sessions; they actually deserve the recognition.
Inspired from Mark O’Brien’s article “On Seeing a Sex Surrogate”, The Sessions plays as heartwarming and upbeat as the man of whom it’s about, with an lovable and physically demanding performance from Hawkes. Hawkes endearingly adds a nerdy charm to Mark that proves effective with the females.
Is that your fanny pack or are you just happy to see me
A role that’s equally as physically demanding is played by Helen Hunt. Hunt plays Cheryl, Mark’s sex surrogate that commands the screen with confidence. Cheryl is quick to point out that she’s no prostitute, and their amount of sessions are limited to six. Cheryl also has a family life of her own and Hunt and director Lewin impressively display the complexities of a person with her profession and the weight that carries, without damning it.
Not to be missed is the scruffy-haired Priest that Mark confides with, played by William H. Macy. As the film progresses, Mark shifts from asking Macy’s Priest’s advice from a heavenly point of view to that of a best friend so much so that beers are shared at Mark’s apartment.
Personally, and this may be blasphemy to men, but I could have done with a pulling back on the nudity, with the same message still getting across. No fault to Hunt as she seems fearless with the amount of nudity director Ben Lewin asks for. It feels like the nudity barrage was to disarm us and wear down our taboos, and by the end of the film it was no longer thought about when she disrobed, except for maybe how much work she’s had done.
I’m just mad about you…and your gratuitous nudity.
The Sessions deals with a very adult aspect of sex that we all face, but nicely shows it through the eyes of someone with a different set of challenges.
Take a Drink: every time Mark makes light of his physical disabilities.
Take a Drink: every time Helen Hunt gets naked.
Take a Drink: every time Mark goes to church.
Do a Shot: when Father Brendan drinks beer.