10/17/2012 06:51 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Story Behind The Sessions

Very few people live in the fray between an expanding mind and a limiting body like Mark O'Brian. As a Berkeley graduate, journalist, and polio sufferer, O'Brian was confined to live and work from a chamber called an "iron lung." Being inside the device caused him to breath involuntarily, and every breath appeared labored and unnatural. People may refer to him as severely crippled, disabled, handicapped, etc., and these terms were evidently applicable to his physical state. Regardless, his charm, wit, and intellect not only transcended his decrepit physical condition, but his personal qualities also caused him to honestly, yet ambitiously, come to terms with his goals, limitations, and mortality. O'Brian continued to write, think, and love until he passed away on Independence Day, 1999.

This Friday, The Sessions, starring John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, and William H. Macy, will be released, beginning what is likely a path towards multiple Oscar nominations. The film follows a relationship that develops between O'Brian (John Hawkes) and a sex surrogate played by Helen Hunt. Inspired by O'Brian's character and life experiences, The Sessions should not be missed.

We have all heard the phrase 'based on a true story,' which The Sessions is; yet, the Academy Award winning film Breathing Lessons allows us to hear from O'Brian directly. His anxieties, joys, confinement, and ambition are all laid out in this free streaming online documentary from SnagFilms. To more fully develop your understanding of the extra-ordinary figure of Mark O'Brian, watch Breathing Lessons on SnagFilms, and add another dimension to your time seeing The Sessions.