The Sessions

8 Jul

the sessions



Director: Ben Lewin

Writers: Ben Lewin (written for the screen by), Mark O’Brien (article)

Stars: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy

Motion Picture Rating: R

Runtime: 95 minutes


This film from writer-director Ben Lewin is based on the true story of Mark O’Brien and specifically on an article that O’Brien wrote in 1990 for the Sun magazine called “On Seeing a Sex Surrogate”. Mark O’Brien was stricken with polio aged six and the film finds him living with the aid of an iron lung, aged 38, a poet and intellectual, and a part of the Berkeley set in San Francisco in the late 1980’s. Mark is paralyzed and he is a virgin. His article for the Sun magazine retold his experience with a sex surrogate and his journey to losing his virginity.

The subjects of sex surrogacy and disabled sex are rarely addressed in cinema and Ben Lewin handles them with enormous tact and skill. In O’Brien he has a fascinating lead character who exclaims “who are these people?” when he starts to learn about disabled peoples’ sexual adventures. In John Hawkes he also has a fantastic actor putting in a fine performance. I like Hawkes and feel that he’s been overlooked in excellent indies such as Winter’s Bone and Martha Marcy May Maylene. He is a talented actor and he commits completely to this difficult role.

O’Brien comes across as one part Woody Allen and one part Stephen Hawking. Despite being extremely disabled he retains a dry sense of humour and is both quick-witted and quick-minded. He is good company and the scenes of him seeking guidance from his local priest, played to perfection by William H Macy, are warm and intriguing. Both men are virginal and their discussions of sex, love, faith and sin are real and charming in equal measure. That reality and charm run deep through this film and are most strongly manifested in the central relationship between O’Brien and his sex surrogate Cheryl (played with heart by Helen Hunt).

The sessions between Mark and Cheryl are the emotional heart of this story and Hawkes and Hunt imbue them with enormous honesty and truth. Whilst the intended sexual activity is serious, the intimate scenes are not seedy, sad or gratuitous. They are real and that means that they are at times awkward, funny, warm and wonderful. By the end their story is an uplifting one. Unlike many other films, there is nothing in this film that is judgemental or condescending and certainly nothing that trivializes sex. The Sessions is about love in different forms and it is about human kindness. As such it is a refreshing, challenging and moving piece of work. Well done to all involved.

One Response to “The Sessions”

  1. leo July 16, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

    Thank you for the article, it’s very useful, will surely try to test what you have got indicated… there’s only one issue I want to mention in more detail, My spouse and i wrote a message to your tackle about it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: