The Sessions is a home run for the healing powers of sex and how repressed a society we are -- despite all of our iPad and techno-net ways of relating. We have lost touch with the power of touch. Mark O'Brien, (John Hawkes) is a victim of polio and condemned to a life in an iron lung. He is to remain a virgin with passion burning within until Helen Hunt comes into his life.
While he is paralyzed, in the opening scene one of his nurses makes a reaction to what is obviously an erection. His body is alive and eager to relate to women in a sexual way but he is imprisoned in his own body. A poet and writer who writes with his mouth while holding an apparatus that is able to translate his words much like Steven Hawking does, O'Brien makes a living writing articles.
O'Brien befriends a priest (William Macy) who offers him confession. Regularly they meet and O'Brien confesses his sexual desires and wants to know if he has the blessing of the church to consult a sex therapist. Enter the stunning and brave Cheryl (Helen Hunt). Her performance is moving but it is a pity she was directed to use a Boston accent that seemed to go in and out of her and was not really necessary. The director Ben Lewin should have caught this, but as he was also the screenwriter, his dance card was crowded.
Cheryl has a tolerant husband Rod (W Earl Brown) whom she refers to as a philosopher when O'Brien asks about his profession. Later Cheryl confesses Rod plays guitar and thinks a lot. Good natured Cheryl takes care of men in need of nurturing.
Amanda (Annika Marks) is a nurse's aide who becomes infatuated with O'Brien and quits due to her strong feelings for him. A gorgeous Vera (Moon Bloodgood) replaces Amanda and is able to perform her duties without emotional involvement.
Hawkes is so convincing as a polio victim that I thought he was indeed O'Brien until I watched the credits. The audience applauded and so will anyone who is vulnerable to the sad state of sexuality in America and how much our puritan ethic is to blame. The priest smokes and drinks beer and is the director's commentary on religious piety. Like O'Brien, I left the theatre feeling cleansed as well.
The Sessions, a true story, is a must see with a bullet.