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Written by: Sam Fragoso on October 18, 2012

October 18, 2012 | 8 comments | Featured

TIFF coverage republished. The Sessions is playing in select cities tomorrow and will be expanding. 

For a man as multifaceted as Michael O’Brien, a polio ridden paralyzed poet, The Sessions is an awfully one dimensional film that doesn’t evolve into much more than a slight and endearing run-of-the mill melodrama.

Based off the optimistic autobiographical writings of O’Brien, director and screenwriter Ben Lewin returns to filmmaking (after a 18 year hiatus) with a story about a 38 year-old journalist that wishes to finally loose his virginity.

Albeit paralyzed, Mark (played by the immensely talented John Hawkes) remains hopeful and positive, putting faith in Father Brendan (a long and shaggy haired understanding priest played by William H. Macy) and a hired sex surrogate (Cheryl played by Helen Hunt) to satisfy his lifelong sexual desires.

Exploring the long and winding road of sexuality, The Sessions attempts to walk the tightrope between comedy and drama. The juggling act of effectively balancing and seamlessly interweaving the two genres is a daunting task.

When Hawkes and Macy share screen time the comedic elements thrive. Especially when the sunny and quick-witted O’Brien propels Father Brendan into wrangling between providing either religious (ideologically grounded) aid or pragmatic (every man) advice.

Hunt delivers a noteworthy performance as a private woman attempting to sexually develop her patient. As the two advance their relationship, in which the two can only meet six times, they naturally begin to form genuine feelings for one another.

Ingrained more in melancholy than bliss, The Sessions’ didn’t pull at my emotional chords – despite the irresistible kindness and elation Michael emits.

Charming as Lewin’s script may be, the end result of The Sessions provides little more than underwhelming sentiments filled with indifference and frustration. All of which were followed by the realization that this is exact the type of crowd-pleasing fodder we perpetually overhype.

However, while it’s more an afterthought by the story’s conclusion (which abruptly dissipates), the narrative suggests that at some point in all of our lives, each of us will find someone to love. Living in a world where cynicism has ostensibly infected a majority of people breathing, it’s rather uplifting to contemplate such an idea.

Whether or not we hold onto that companion when finally found is something of another discussion.

Review on Fan the Fire Magazine

Rating: ★★☆☆

The Sessions

The Sessions (2012)

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

Director: Ben Lewin

Writer: Mark O’Brien, Ben Lewin

Runtime: 95 minutes

Genre: romance, drama, comedy

Trailer The Sessions


There are 8 comments for this post.

  1. Marc on September 10, 2012 12:26 pm

    Saw this back in August (to prep for a Press tour) and really liked it. While sweet and charming, thanks to the amazing performance from Hawkes, this was also very bold and kind of uncomfortable. Not just the subject matter but the frankness in the way it was presented. Really enjoyed how despite the, as you say, non-existent conclusion the look at life again shows us that truth is always stranger than fiction. Bitter-sweet overall, especially the ending, but the people he interacted with and his look on life is what really stands out. Good point about how The Sessions “attempts to walk the tightrope between comedy and drama” probably the best way to do it without being depressing and rather boring.

  2. Fernando Quintero on September 11, 2012 10:52 am

    Great review. I’d love to see this one, if only to watch Helen Hunt again after many years.

  3. sati on September 11, 2012 11:44 am

    Great review! I’m definetly going to see this one just for Hawkes’s performance – this guy is amazing!

  4. Sam Fragoso on September 11, 2012 9:11 pm

    My mom was forced to tears during this film … I’m considering a re-watch.

  5. Colin Biggs on October 18, 2012 9:40 pm

    Hopefully the emotional disconnect is not a problem during your second watch.

  6. Sam Fragoso on October 19, 2012 12:56 am

    If I do decide to see the film again …

  7. Alex Withrow on November 6, 2012 1:40 pm

    You and I are in completely agreement here. Honestly, kind of glad I’m not the only one. Good acting, but never fully hits.

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