A virgin on the hunt to get laid for the first time often
involves underage drinking, road trips, and over-the-top raunchy jokes, or at
least that's how the movies portray it. The reality is often quite the opposite;
instead it's usually uncomfortable, strange and tense. It's this reality that's
missing from most films and a challenge that writer/director Ben Lewin tackles
head on with the same uncompromising optimism as our lead character, Mark. For a movie with such a difficult
subject, The Sessions is a
surprisingly funny, touching, and often times moving experience with a couple
really great performances.
Mark (John Hawkes) is a 38-year-old poet determined to lose
his virginity despite his debilitating health issues caused by polio. He's more or less confined to an iron
lung for most of his day and can't move any body part below the neck. Unlike some immobile and disabled polio
victims, he still maintains sensation in the lower half of his body, allowing
him to perform limited sexual intercourse. Not content with simply allowing himself to wither and die
without some sort of pleasure, Mark hires a sexual therapist surrogate named
Cheryl (Helen Hunt) to assist in learning what he's truly capable of.
The Sessions is an
acting showcase filled to the brim with excellent performances that immediately
outshine the interesting but straightforward story. John Hawkes delivers one of the best performances of the
year with sincerity and humor.
It'll be hard for you to not be completely enamored with Mark and his
sexual journey through all the laughs and the tears. Helen Hunt is no slouch, baring all both physically and
emotionally for one of the more complicated and difficult characters in some
time. The film really doesn't try
to be anything more than just a solid, if slightly unique, character drama
distracting from the by the numbers story offering no surprising elements.
Unfortunately, Lewin is at the mercy of real life events
surrounding the real Mark, and as a result he doesn't have the ability to
create unique drama when there isn't any without misrepresenting the subject's
life. The acting is so good and so
damn entertaining that the simplistic storytelling isn't a problem. Of course, it would have been nice to
have some more compelling conflicts, but this will do just fine. The
Sessions will provide enough humor and genuine emotion that you may find
yourself inspired to try something new, no matter how impossible it may seem.