Who knew paraplegics would ever be an ‘in’ trend within the confines of cinema? Rust and Bone accentuated the struggle. Untouchable provided an utterly charming brand of interracial buddy ‘banter’. Seemingly eager to avert the threat of a French invasion, Hollywood retaliates in the form of director Ben Lewin with this autobiographical piece on Californian based poet/journalist Mark O’Brien.
O’Brien (John Hawkes). 38 year old uni grad confined to an iron lung but full of optimism. Seeks sexual awakening to ‘cleanse’ his virginal state before his ‘use by date’ is up. Not the most enticing of prospects. Forever restricted by the mundane trial and error scenarios of hiring/firing judgemental carers, Mark resorts to seeking a spiritual perspective from the honourable Father Brendan (William H.Macy). Insistent on God giving him a ‘free pass’, Mark enlists the expertise of sex surrogate/glorified prostitute (delete as applicable) Cheryl (Helen Hunt) as he attempts to fulfil his peculiar objective.
The Sessions is essential and timely proof, that American cinema can deconstruct sexual taboos with refreshing maturity and in a sensitive manner. Albeit laced with awkwardness structured for comic effect, director Lewin is unfazed in bringing a candid authenticity to such intimate sequences.
Soothing with his playful yet defenseless tone and emphatically committed to the physical demands of the role, John Hawkes shines as O’Brien with his plight impossible not to root for. Defying the effects of aging and prompting distain from women everywhere, Helen Hunt is terrific as the proverbial walls of her initially prickly and domineering demeanour are stripped bare (literally).
Only occasionally ‘crippled’ by its simplistic high school class level dialogue (A* for progress!), The Sessions is an absolute charmer. Celebratory in making a mockery of your limitations and becoming comfortable in your own skin, whilst embracing the spontaneity of ‘love’ in its many forms.