BY JENNA SIMPSON
I loved The Sessions. LOVED. It is incredibly moving. It’s one of the most beautiful, touching movies I’ve seen in years. YEARS!!! I’m going to try not to just gush all over this post about how awesome it is, but you really should know, it’s really awesome.
Do you know what The Sessions is about? It’s based on the true story of a poet and journalist named Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes), who is paralyzed from the neck down and spends the majority of his time in an iron lung, which breathes for him. He decides, at the age of 38, that he wants to lose his virginity. After consulting with his priest (William H. Macy), he hires a sex surrogate named Cheryl Cohen-Greene (Helen Hunt) to help him accomplish his goal.
A sex surrogate is a kind of sex therapist, who sometimes has sexual interactions with his or her patients in order to help them to recover–or gain–a “normal” sexual life. I’m glad that this movie was my first exposure to sex surrogacy. It’s really a beautiful thing, a precious gift, to give someone back, or help them develop, their sexuality.
Despite the heavy subject matter, the movie has a mostly light-hearted feel. (Don’t get me wrong, though–I was a blubbering mess by the end!) Macy’s Father Brendan provides a great deal of humour, but mostly, John Hawkes’ performance really sets the tone. Hawkes is brilliant, and is able to convey with very little physical movement a broad range of complex emotions. His vocalization and facial expression carry his performance, and he does an incredible job of drawing his viewers in and making us truly care about his character. I think Mark O’Brien would be proud to be portrayed so lovingly.
Helen Hunt is perfectly wonderful as Cheryl, the sex surrogate. She displays a warmth and matter-of-fact tenderness toward her character and the character of Mark that is really beautiful to see.
Here I am obliged to add my voice to the ranks of critics who cannot understand how John Hawkes was possibly excluded from the Oscar nominations. Every year, there’s always one performance that you can’t believe didn’t get nominated, and this year, that dubious honour goes to Hawkes.
See The Sessions, pronto. It’s exceptional. If it doesn’t move you, you have a dead fish inside your chest where your heart should be.