The Sessions

Director: Ben Lewin Run Time: 95 min. Format: DCP Rating: R Release Year: 2012

Starring: Helen Hunt, John Hawkes, William H. Macy

John Hawkes stars in a story of triumph over disability that takes the form of an uplifting sex comedy.

Mark, a wry and chatty 38-year-old (John Hawkes), just wants to get laid. One small problem: he has polio and is paralyzed from the neck down. First, he must get the permission of his priest, Father Brendan (William H. Macy) who weighs the cosmic scales and declares, “In my heart I believe He will give you a free pass on this one.” Then, he has to find a willing partner. She turns out to be Cheryl (Helen Hunt), a married woman and mother who works as a sexual surrogate, helping the disabled and the mentally challenged to explore their sexuality.

The heart of The Sessions is the scenes between Mark and Cheryl, which are uncommonly frank about sex and nudity, and lay out the mechanics of Cheryl’s work in precise detail. Hawkes, who has earned much acclaim for playing creeps and cretins recently (Winter’s Bone, Martha Marcy May Marlene) achieves the seemingly impossible here, capturing the depth and soul of a thoughtful, charming poet using only his face. Hunt is even better as a woman who has no problem taking off her clothes for strangers, but can’t have a single honest conversation with the husband who takes her for granted.

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