Sex scenes, sexual references and themes
Written and directed: Ben Lewin:
Featuring: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy, Moon Bloodgood, W. Earl
Brown, Annika Marks, Blake Lindsley
Running time: 94 minutes
After contracting polio as a child, Mark was paralysed from the neck down and lived the majority of his life in an iron lung. As an adult he worked as a writer. While researching an article about sex and disabled people, he decided he wanted to have sex himself. His 1990 article ‘On Seeing a Sex Surrogate’ detailed his experiences hiring a sex surrogate to lose his virginity. That article forms the basis of The Sessions. Hollywood is very good at reproducing straight male sexual expression full of sexual imagery, it very rarely contains depictions of sex that are erotic, affirming, adventurous, fun or intimate.
As sex surrogate worker (played by Helen Hunt) is a sensation and gives her best performance to date. We see her home life with her family away from her work to contrast who she is as professional therapist who has sex with her clients, and as a person with her own needs and concerns. Cheryl is patient and caring with Mark, while also remaining professional and firm when necessary. Away from him she is revealed to be deeply moved by his situation and aware of how his emotional vulnerability may affect her. It is a role that demanded a high level of complexity and skill, and Hunt excels.
The Sessions also benefits from a very strong supporting cast, especially Moon Bloodgood and Annika Marks who play two of the other major women in Mark’s life. Most impressive is William H Macy as Father Brendan, Mark’s friend and priest.
This is an extremely accomplished film that celebrates sexuality.
Original Review: Thomas Caldwell, 2012 Cinema Autopsy
Extracted and compiled by Peter Gillard