The Sessions (15)

Film image

The ViewLondon Review

StarStarStarStarNo Star
Review byMatthew Turner16/01/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 95 mins

Hugely enjoyable, warm-hearted and frequently laugh-out-loud funny disability drama with a superb script and a pair of terrific performances from John Hawkes and Helen Hunt.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Ben Lewin, The Sessions (which played at Sundance under the title The Surrogate) is based on a true story and stars John Hawkes as 38 year old poet and journalist Mark O'Brien, who's paralysed from the neck down and confined to an iron lung due to polio. Able to survive without the iron lung for a few hours each day, Mark travels around on a gurney with the help of his no-nonsense assistant Vera (Moon Bloodgood) and pays frequent visits to kindly priest Father Brendan (William H Macy).

After being commissioned to write an article on the subject, Mark decides to enlist the services of professional (and happily married) sex surrogate Cheryl Cohen-Greene (Helen Hunt), in order to lose his virginity. Cheryl duly proscribes a series of six sessions in order to prevent Mark from becoming too emotionally attached, but the pair spark an unexpectedly strong connection and she begins to wonder if she should cut their sessions short.

The Good
John Hawkes was inexplicably denied an Oscar nomination, but he nonetheless delivers one of the best performances of the year as Mark, investing him with a warmth and humour that is extremely engaging. Similarly, Helen Hunt (who deservedly did receive an Oscar nomination) puts in a career-best turn as Cheryl, committing fully to the physicality of the role and striking a powerful chemistry with Hawkes that is genuinely moving. In addition, there's enjoyable support from Macy and Bloodgood, both of whom have some very funny scenes involving their decidedly different reactions to Mark's situation.

The Great
From the synopsis of the film alone, you could be forgiven for thinking that The Sessions is one of those Oscar-baiting disability dramas (think My Left Foot) aimed squarely at the tear ducts. However, Lewin (who's had his own battles with polio) and his cast get the tone exactly right, balancing realism, raw emotion and disarmingly frank physicality (particularly in Hunt's case) with a surprising and charming amount of warmth and humour, without ever slipping into sugary sentimentality.

Worth seeing?
The Sessions is a hugely enjoyable, powerfully emotional drama told with warmth and sensitivity, thanks to a superb script and terrific performances from Hawkes and Hunt. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

The Sessions (15)
Be the first to review The Sessions...
image
01 Serena (15)

Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper

image
02 Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (tbc)

Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Dylan Minnette, Ed ...

image
03 The Second Best Marigold Hotel (12)

Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Richard Ger...

image
04 Home (PG)

Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez

image
05 Fury (15)

Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman

Content updated: 25/10/2014 11:11

Latest Film Reviews

Film of the Week

Fury (15)

Brad Pitt and his tank crew have to battle their way through war torn Germany after four years of hard fighting.

UK Box Office Top 5 Films