The Sessions TIFF 2012 Review

Posted 11 years ago by myetvmedia

The Sessions: Helen Hunt & John Hawkes Light Up the Screen TIFF Review

‘The Sessions’ is a star studded, heart felt biopic about the life of Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes), a poet and journalist born with polio. Mark has an unbelievably charming personality, a dry sense of humour but he is not complete. Something is missing from his life. He has never been intimate with a woman because of his disability. Directed by Ben Lewin, starring John Hawkes, William H. Macy and Helen Hunt ‘The Sessions’ is an emotionally charged and surprisingly funny story about Mark’s journey into adult hood. Lewin handles the film with care and maturity and it pays off dividends.

With the trusty guidance of his local priest Father Brendan (William H. Macy)Mark embarks on the quest to lose his virginity. To help him accomplish this goal, Mark hires a sex surrogate Cheryl (Helen Hunt). Cheryl helps her clients explore a sexual world that is unknown to them, much like a psychiatrist would help a patient through an emotional problem. Cheryl provides both physical and emotional experiences to her patients to help them evolve.

Having no control over his body from the neck down Mark must sleep and rest in an iron lung most of the day to breathe. He can vacate the tube for only hours at a time and is only able to travel by being pushed on a stretcher with a respirator by his side. For most of his life his closest relationship with a female has been with his living assistant, a position with high turnover. Mark wears his heart on his sleeve, but love always seems to escape him.

Lewin shows us the challenges disabilities have on a physical relationship. He also reveals that just because someone is disabled doesn’t mean that can’t get down and dirty and lack the passion for sex. The cast is stellar and work so well together to bring this story to life. The intimate scenes Hawkes and Hunt share on screen demonstrate how they have honed their craft.

Lewin allows us to explore both Mark and Cheryl’s journey from opposite sides of the coin. Sex surrogacy is not a job often discussed and it’s interesting to examine it through this lens. One can only imagine how challenging it is to do that job for a living. How do you explain what you do to others and how hard is it to keep your feelings for your client on a professional level? The film sensitively looks at all these questions.

Full of sharp writing, great acting and a wonderful story, I highly recommend you see this film at TIFF.


Chris Murphy

THE SESSIONS Trailer | TIFF Festival 2012

THE SESSIONS Press Conference | Festival 2012


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