'The Sessions': A Poignant and Mature Depiction of a Quadriplegic's Discovery of Sexuality
The Sessions (2012) is a poignant comedy-drama starring John Hawkes as Mark O’Brien, a quadriplegic forced to inhabit an iron lung due to complications from childhood Polio. Set in Berkeley, California in 1988, the storyline finds the then-38 year-old journalist/ poet longing to experience sexual relations before his death—which he fears is forthcoming.
After consultation with his parish priest (William H. Macy), Mark seeks out professional surrogate Cheryl Cohen-Greene (Helen Hunt)—who agrees to a course of 6 individual appointments. This series of surrogate sessions supplies the central narrative for Mark and Cheryl's story—one of exploration, education and revelation. Delving into each other's hearts over the course of their interactions, the two begin to develop genuine romantic feelings for one another—much to the dismay of Cheryl's husband Josh (Adam Arkin).
Written and directed by Polish-Australian filmmaker Ben Lewin and based on O'Brien's 1990 article "On Seeing a Sex Surrogate", The Sessions is an unflinching yet remarkably tender depiction of sexual awakening. Lewin approaches the subject matter in a uniquely progressive fashion, while Hawkes and Hunt are both wonderfully genuine in their admittedly challenging roles. Replete with charm and naturalistic humor, Lewin's film is a real treat—a sincere depiction of intimacy captured in a refreshingly mature manner.
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