Ben Lewin’s The Sessions might just sound like the oddest idea for a film on paper; being about a bed-ridden man with polio whose last wish is to lose his virginity before it’s too late, but the film blends together the drama and comedy quite well. John Hawkes delivers a performance worthy of praise, playing the crippled genius with a sharp sense of humor and a refreshing outlook on life, pushing The Sessions forward as a film that’s not afraid to get really inappropriately funny when it needs to be, while also staying on its dramatic path. If you’re looking for a film that’s a little out of the ordinary you might want to read further.
Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes) has had polio ever since he was a little boy. He lives off of his iron lung, but even that doesn’t stop him from living his life to the fullest. He’s extremely smart and he applies his deep memory bank of knowledge whenever he can, while also being a bit of a funny man. See, he looks at life as positive as possible, which means he’s not afraid to crack jokes at his own expense, especially when it means impressing a pretty girl or an old friend.
But he knows he’s running out of time. His life is dwindling away and instead of wasting it he hopes to accomplish one last thing before it’s too late. He wants to lose his virginity, but he wants to do it within the faith. He sets out to get the approval from a member of the church and he ends up making a friend in the process. Father Brendan (William H. Macy) not only thinks that God will give him a pass, but he also personally thinks that what Mark is trying to do is a great thing.
This leads Mark to a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) and from there the film takes a series of ups and downs as Mark attempts to get comfortable with his sexuality, while also establishing a few new relationships that impact his life greatly.
The Sessions sounded like a tough sell over at Fox, but because of Ben Lewin’s direction and John Hawkes’ performance I’d consider it one of the most refreshing things to come from last year. It does a really good job keeping the mood light in times where other films would fully submerge into the darker and more depressing material. Lewin handles everything so maturely and yet very humorously. The Sessions is an incredibly funny film, but it’s also a touching piece of inspiration for virtually any human being.
The problems that Mark faces are universal. It might not be sexual or physical, but everyone encounters self-doubt and loneliness at one point in life. Everyone understands what it feels like to live a life that hasn’t been fully fulfilled. Mark’s encouraging story shows first-hand how important it is to be brave and full of hope when the world has given you nothing but hopeless situations in life.
Some might laugh at the film’s main premise, but if you’re willing to maturely invest in the material I can guarantee that you’ll be surprised by just how fun the film actually is. I credit Lewin’s script and actor John Hawkes’ ability to deliver such a sharp and likable character. Mark is full of life and energy because of Hawkes’ performance.
The Sessions might be one of the weirdest-sounding films of recent memory, but it uses that to its advantage and delivers an emotionally charged drama with a great sense of humor.
The Sessions comes to Blu-Ray with an incredibly sharp 1080p video transfer. The film was shot digitally using Red One cameras and the Blu-Ray presentation is ported with perfection. Everything is oh so sharp, with close and far away shots looking rather clear and detailed throughout the entire film.
The film’s 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track isn’t going to rattle your walls or wake the neighbors, but it does the job just fine. This is a dialogue-driven film, which means lots of upfront activity and not so much on the back channels. Still, there’s a great sense of mixture throughout the track that sounds well-balanced and even.
Fox has packed a few extra assortments onto the disc for your viewing pleasure. Here’s a complete list of them:
- Deleted Scenes (HD)
- Writer/Director Ben Lewin Finds Inspiration (HD)
- John Hawkes Becomes Mark O’Brien (HD)
- Helen Hunt as the Sex Surrogate (HD)
- A Session with the Cast (HD)
- The Women Who Loved Mark O’Brien (HD)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD)
- Sneak Peek (HD)
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
Ben Lewin’s The Sessions is an inspirational film that deals with some heavy subject matter in a refreshingly humorous way. Stars John Hawkes and Helen Hunt make the best of their respective roles, filling both characters full of glowing life and passion that helps build their intimate relationship with much-needed emotional weight. There’s a sense of realism, despite the film’s odd-sounding plot, that drives it home and makes it a film that you’d never expect to enjoy so much.
If you’re sick of the traditional romance or odd-pairing couple comedy then I’d highly suggest you seek out The Sessions. It’s a wise mixture of the two, held down strongly by two performances and a direction that’s technically sound and refreshingly bright.