Starring: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy, Moon Bloodgood
Directed by: Ben Lewin
Rated: R Run time: 95 mins Genre: Drama
Opens November 2nd
By Lisa Minzey of The Reel Critic.com
Hey Phoenix Film Fans, the week we checked out The Session, a film based on the true story of paraplegic poet/writer, Mark O'Brien. Fun fact about O'Brien, as this is not the first film about him. He was the subject of the 1997 Academy Award winning documentary, "Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien".
Mark O'Brien (John Hawkes) wasn't always paraplegic. At the age of 6, he was struck with polio, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. His parents were told that he wouldn't make it past childhood, if he were to survive that long. Defying all odds and surpassing everyone's expectations, Mark went on to graduate from University of California, Berkeley in 1978 with a degree in English Mark lived a happy life (for what it was), charming all he would meet. One day, he gets a call from an editor friend who asks him to write an article about sexuality in the handicapped. Mark accepts but thinks it is odd that he was asked considering he's never actually "done the deed", so to say. Yes, that's right, before there was Steve Carrell as the 40 yr old Virgin, there was Mark O'Brien, the 38 year old virgin.
As he conducts his interviews, he realizes, that for him to have a proper article, maybe it's time to pop his cherry. He still has full feeling and functioning blood flow to the nether region, so he is referred to a "sexual surrogate", someone who's not quite a prostitute but helps people get past their barriers of leading a healthy sexually active life.
When Mark meets Cheryl (Helen Hunt) his sexual surrogate, he is extremely nervous. He had discussed his concern with his new priest, Father Brendan (William H. Macy) as he was worried about how this would look to God. Will his soul perish in Hell for eternity because he has sex outside of marriage? Father Brendan gives Mark a "free pass" clearing his conscious on being able to proceed with the article.
Cheryl explains the whole process to Mark, letting him know they only have 6 sessions total to work on his "therapy". Sometimes it takes less than 6 sessions to achieve the goals set, but everyone is different. Will Mark be able to perform and reach his goals of having intercourse and being ale to please a woman? Or will his religious upbringing/ guilt get the best of him, hindering his sex life even further?
Anytime dealing with sexual issues in a visual media such as film, there is a certain amount of sensitivity that need to be addressed, especially when dealing with the handicapped. Director Ben Lewin did a fantastic job, as did John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy in bring the life of Mark O'Brien and this timeframe of his life for portrayal on screen. The film was handled with such humor, grace and love that it shines through the performances and story. Even though it is a sensitive subject, the film is filled with many lighthearted, laugh-out loud moments. Just keep a few tissues handy for those who cry easily in films, this one for some will be a real tearjerker. I would be shocked if this is not nominated for at least some acting awards in the upcoming award season. Be sure o check it out when it opens in Phoenix Friday November 2, 2012.