One of the finest films of 2012 based upon the real life story of Mark O’Brien, stricken with polio at the age of six, confined to an iron lung for the entirety of his life. “The Sessions” is based on O’Brien’s article “On Seeing a Sex Therapist”. A therapy brought to the forefront by Masters and Johnson in the 1970, “Human Sexual Inadequacy”.
John Hawkes (“Winter’s Bone”) gives a performance on par with Javiar Barden’s in “The Sea Inside” (2004); with minimal head movement he conveys emotions running the alphabetical gamut from A through Z; so compelling is his performance that the discomfort of viewing him at an angle is a reminder of the entitlement, selfishness of the fully mobile individual. With the power of a poetic mind and tongue he woos with Cyrano de Bergerac’s seductive, alluring charm; peppered with self-deprecating humor he wins the hearts of his caretakers and eventual love of this sex therapist, Cheryl Cohen Green, a brilliant, Academy Award worthy depiction by Helen Hunt.
At thirty-eight Mark wants to correct his virginal state (besides his head there is another part of his anatomy that is salubriously functional); he seeks the advice of his priest “Father Brendan” (poignant, hilarious dead-pan performance by William H. Macy); Father Brendan feels that God and the Church will give him a pass on illicit sexual behavior, outside of marriage.
“The Sessions” outstanding success lies in the enactment of the treatments; “Cheryl” is a clinician, records every meeting with the detachment of a professional; total nudity is never salacious, sensational or prurient. Hunt’s performance lacking histrionics or gravitas resonates with acute empathy for “Mark”; her expertise, layered with kindness, will not accept failure.
“The Sessions” is informed by profound dignity, an example of the immense capability of a spirit to soar beyond the constraints of a frozen body, to touch the stars and mingle with the gods.
FOUR & 1/2 STARS!!!!