“The Sessions” follows the true journey of poet Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes), who, at age 38, finally decides to lose his virginity. The key difference between him and the 40 Year Old Virgin, however, is that Mark is paralyzed from the neck down and spends most of his life in an iron lung. With the blessing of his priest (William H. Macy), Mark hires a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) to do the deed with him.
This film is far more than a sex story. Director Ben Lewin gracefully leads us beyond the journey of a virginal disabled man and into the mind of a writer exploring the bounds of both physical and emotional love. We experience fear, pain, desire and passion with Mark, who pulls us along with his own brand of cynical, witty optimism. His offbeat sense of humor keeps many of the darker themes lighthearted.
Hawkes effectively connects with the audience, pulling at heartstrings with frank yet charming narrations. As a sex surrogate, Hunt brings a stellar performance and shares a poignant chemistry with Hawkes. The few scenes that offer a glimpse into her personal life are tantalizing.
It is clear that every scene of “The Sessions” has been artfully crafted. With Mark O’Brien’s actual poetry woven into the screenplay, accompanied by the powerfully emotional interplay among the characters, “The Sessions” feels like an eloquent poem materialized as a film. Moving and unexpectedly relatable, this spectacular independent film is a must–see.