Based on an article “On Seeking a Sex Surrogate”, The Sessions details the struggles and triumphs of Mark O’Brien, a poet from Boston who was paralysed from the neck down since early childhood complications from polio.
Not letting his affliction mar his ambitions, Mark (played by John Hawkes) decides it’s time to loose his virginity and enlists in the help of a sexual surrogate named Cheryl (Helen Hunt). With no ability to control his body, let alone his sexuality, each session with Cheryl reveals a connection to his own body, and an ensuing connection with Cheryl.
Writer/Director Ben Lewin manages to bring a dearth of emotion without venturing into sentimental schmaltz. The film is concerned with sexuality on such a strong level, and doesn’t hold back on it’s depiction of intimacy, arousal and sexual activity.
John Hawkes is simply incredible as Mark detailing Mark’s psychicality and mental state with great aplomb. Helen Hunt turns in an impressive and brave (older actress naked) performance too as the surrogate. William H. Macy is also enjoyable as the Priest that Mark seeks unconventional counsel from.
For an independent film so small and subtle, The Sessions makes such an indelible mark. Poignant, moving and funny, The Sessions is an exciting addition to MIFF, and is also a strong contender for Best Actor and Actress prizes in Hollywood’s upcoming awards season.
Ultimately, The Sessions is an emotional journey through love in all its wonder, yearning and elusiveness.
The Sessions is screening in the 2012 Melbourne International Film Festival. Check here for screening times.