The Sessions

DRAMA; 1hr 35min

STARRING: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy

Sheet music: Hunt and Hawkes

At age 38, Mark O’Brien (Hawkes) is down but never out. Immobile in an iron lung since a childhood bout of polio, he keeps a rebellious grip on transcendent survival. Mark is a journalist, a poet and a romantic. Sharply observant and engaging, his driving ambition is to have sex — which, understandably, he hasn’t managed to do. His priest, Father Brendan (Macy), is taken aback by the idea of a sexual surrogate, as you’d imagine he would be. “Is it possible for me to know a woman in the biblical sense, so to speak?” Mark pleads. 


Cheryl Cohen Greene (Hunt) is that admirably purposeful woman, whose professional domain is the emotional polarities of the severely disabled. What happens between her and Mark in writer-director Ben Lewin’s case study, based on the late Mark O’Brien’s experiences, is unsentimentally moving. Hawkes and Hunt are sensational, their daunting roles handled with directness and respect. The Sessions is a tribute to their courage in an industry too often hamstrung by the streamlined and the tamed.