Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Sessions

Synopsis: Life affirming story about Mark O'Brien, a writer confined to his bed after contracting polio as a kid, who had one wish before dying - to have sex with a woman. He employs Cheryl Greene, a sympathetic sex surrogate - who helps him realize this long desired goal.

Sometimes when we touch, the honesty's too much...

To sell this movie to you may initially seem like a challenge. Its premise - a story about a paraplegic wanting to have sex before he dies - is not a concept that will have a mass of the film going public lining up feverishly in anticipation. If you can overcome your first thoughts in that respect, then you will be rewarded with one of the best films you'll see this year. It is a movie that does that increasingly rare thing these days. It moves you.
And, its riotously funny as well! 

Anchored by two of the best actors working today, John Hawkes ("Deadwood", "Martha Marcy May Marlene") & Helen Hunt ("Mad About You", "What Women Want", "As Good As It Gets"), this touching story of a persons need to physically connect to another is a universal theme that we can all relate to. The magic of this movie is that it feels very real, emotional, tender, respectful, but above all else, extremely positive in displaying what can happen when two people share something special between themselves. The dynamics of this unique relationship are not in any way fabricated to elicit your stereotypical response of the usual onscreen fashion in which these things usually play out. The sex scenes are not by any stretch titillating. They are conveyed with a very sensitive empathy for the situations involved between Mark & Cheryl. In the hands of a lesser director, the sex scenes would have been false, but director Ben Lewin (Also, like the real Mark O'Brien, he too, was afflicted by polio as a child) exercises tremendous restraint in allowing what we do (and don't) see. The master touch is to make the scenes as real as possible - given the limitations of what Marks illness will allow. So, you get to view Helen Hunt, in arguably, her finest role to date, absolutely naked, but beautifully radiant as the person doing all she can to help Mark realise his long held dream. It is a measure of her courageous performance, that we don't see Cheryl as an unemotional sex therapist, but a person increasingly willing to bare her soul to make his request as dignified as possible. But not without some extremely funny moments in between the serious parts! Adding to the fun is William H Macy as Father Frank, the Catholic priest doing his bit to guide Mark (In real life, O'Brien was a devout Catholic) as best he can. Macy plays Frank as you would expect - slightly befuddled, awkward, resigned, but able to set aside his reservations to allow Mark to go and, err, make his mark - as it were.

When Oscar comes calling, it would be a travesty if neither John Hawkes or Helen Hunt get recognized by the academy for their utterly fearless performances in this brilliant film. Both worthy not only of a nomination, but of winning the best actor/actress awards as well.

This warm and tender movie is one that is, for me, unquestionably, one of the best films I've seen all year.

My rating is thus fairly predictable...

Jamie's rating?

J for... Jewel

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