Dir: Ben Lewin
Stars: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt & William H Macy
The subject of disability and sex is one which has been swept under the carpet for a long time. However, over the last few years it has been a subject which has gained much more preeminent. I saw Scarlet Road at Doc/Fest last year, a documentary focussing on an Australian sex worker who specialises in disabled clients. Barry Levin’s new film, the Sessions, takes a slightly alternative approach to the issue.
The Sessions is based on the true story of Mark O’Brien (Hawkes), a Berkley graduate, writer and poet who has been confined to an iron lung sine childhood, only being able to leave the house for a few hours at a time. At the age of 38, Mark is on a quest to lose his virginity, along the way enlisting the help of a sympathetic priest (Macy) and a sex therapist (Hunt). As his journey progresses, Mark struggles to come to terms with his sexuality, but discovers something beyond his wildest dreams.
Based on an article written by O’Brien, there is a seam of authenticity running through this often very sweet film. Hawkes is brilliant and altogether believable in the role of the protagonist; definitely an actor to keep an eye on in the future. Macy steals ever scene he’s in as the beleaguered priest, torn between what he thinks is right and what he is meant to believe. However, the cutest piece of casting is definitely Hunt. She is at home with nudity as her character is; The Sessions never shies away from actually showing the sex.
Indeed, the honesty and willingness of the cast to open themselves up to the subject matter, is what makes The Sessions stand out from say a Judd Aptow movie. There’s a warmth and subtlety at play which is often lacking in bigger budget Hollywood comedy dramas. It’s a film that will make you laugh and cry, without layering on the sentiment or being overly obvious with the gags; a very pleasurable cinema experience.
On general release http://www.showroomworkstation.org.uk/thesessions