Ben Lewin has created a charming movie with The Sessions. It is sort of setting movies on a new trend of not just treating sex as something that gets lost in lust and nudity, but does explore the deeper implications of what it means to people, in this particular case a man, Mark. He’s 39 and is feeling the missing piece of having the human connection. Sex isn’t just something that women and men even do for a feeling but it does for many signify the feeling of being an adult, and most want to feel that intimacy that accompanies it.
Mark has an iron lung, one of the repercussions of catching polio at a young age. After a failed attempt to connect to the woman who is taking care of him he searches out a sex therapist with the encouragement of his priest, Father Brendan. Being Catholic, it is still important for Mark not to feel he is betraying his beliefs either in his want to lose his virginity. Cheryl is hired to help Mark lose his virginity, but also help him be able to connect to others. This does lead to some complications though as the two begin to fall for each other.
The Sessions isn’t what you expect. Most might think it’ll end up being raunchy, and while it is very graphic it has a lot of heart. The characters are all built to feel like real people including the priest, Father Brendan. Cheryl has a lot of her own personal story weaved in as well, so the viewer can relate to her as more than just a sex therapist. It is Mark though who steals the show, as he should.
Helen Hunt seems to have disappeared for a while from a lot of roles, and her on screen appearance as Cheryl seems like a huge leap for the actress, but her and Mark do have a lot of chemistry together even though he is limited to what he can do. John Hawkes is Mark, and for an actor who isn’t well known he does a stand out job in The Sessions. He has been disabled by polio, and you can tell he still has a lot of anger about this issue he hasn’t been able to get past, but Hawkes plays the role just as this might have happened to him.
William H. Macy also pulls a surprise as Father Brendan. He adds the spiritually needed to the story as many people do approach sexuality with spirituality too. For Mark this is an important part of his life to consider, even though he very badly wants to lose his virginity. With the character development you almost feel the movie could have been a bit longer.
The Sessions has great performances from the leads. Everyone seems very dedicated to their part. It may be a bit short to feel like you got a complete story though by the end. Even when this story seems to be headed in a dark path though it does do a turn around to tie it up nicely, but because of the run time it feels very quick. Some might be deterred from watching because of the graphic nature, but it does have a nice running message in the story about how people perceive themselves, and how they connect with other people. Most people just look at the fun, or connection of sex in movies, but this one delves a little bit more.
Rating 8 of 10.