Sunday, November 4, 2012
Mark O'Brien ( John Hawkes) spends the majority of his day in an Iron Lung. He has a portable device which he can use for up to 4 hours when outside of the home but that depends on how he feels. His movements are based on tilting his head, moving his nose and his eye expressions.
We first meet Mark in a real life news report from his student days at Berkley. He is suffering from polio and has an electric gurney that has mirrors above his head so he can see where he is going.
A few years later Mark is a poet and writer living alone with an Aid that is rough and borderline abusive. Mark's muscles do not work due to the polio which he has had since the age of 6 however his mind is clear and sharp. He works a phone with a pencil and speaks to people on speaker phone. He has lost his motorized gurney due to several prior accidents and now needs an attendant's assistance to get around.
He attends church on a regular basis and gives his confession to the priest Father Brendan ( William Macey). He wants to fire the rough attendant but wants his priest's approval.
The new attendant Amanda pays a lot of attention to Mark. She takes him to get new shirts, out for a picnic and is gentle and kind to Mark. So much so that Amanda's boyfriend becomes jealous of the attention. Mark asks Amanda to marry him and she is flustered and leaves.
Mark's new attendant Vera who works well with his routine. One day Mark gets a call from his publisher with a request to write a story on the sexual experiences of the disabled. Mark decides to write the article and interviews some disabled people.
The interviews give Mark the idea to have sex himself. He is 38 years old and its now or never. His psychologist recommends Cheryl (Helen Hunt) who is a sex surrogate that works with the disabled. The sessions are very regulated the most they can have is 6; Cheryl will not answer any personal questions; she records notes on each session, reports back to the psychologist and will not meet or have any contact with the patient outside of the sessions themselves.
At first Mark is very tentative but grows conformable with Cheryl and becomes very attached. He writes her a poem that Cheryl's husband Josh finds and throws it out. Cheryl meets Mark for coffee which is also against the rules.
They have the fourth session and decide to stop Cheryl is more emotional that usual and almost forgets to take her payment She ends up sitting in her car crying after the fourth session and Mark's attendant Vera has to bring her her payment.
Vera and Mark are out in the neighbourhood and Amanda returns to take mark to the park for a picnic. She admits that she loves him as well but is leaving to go to Germany to study German.
At the church Mark discusses the meeting with Father Brendan recounting that Amanda loves him but not in a physical way.
Mark suffers a close call during a power outage but meets Susan a volunteer at the hospital after he is rescued by one of his attendants who becomes his companion.
The Sessions is a touching, poignant piece with great performances from John Hawkes and Helen Hunt. Both roles are very rich and could lead to nominations during award season. William Macey provides comic relief as Marks Confessor Father Brendan The content could have been presented in a depressing way but in spite of the subject manner the file had many funny moments. the Sessions is a film that I would definitely recommend.
***1/2 out of 4.
The Sessions Drama Directed by Ben Lewin 95 Minutes U.S.A.