Helen Hunt and John Hawkes star in this delicately-handled story of Mark O’Brien (Hawkes) in an iron lung, who – at the age of 38 - decides that he wishes to lose his virginity. Help comes in the form of a sex surrogate (played by Hunt), who starts a series of eight sessions, designed to lead to sex and to Mark losing his virginity. The Sessions is based on a true story and as such, the narrative takes turns that you would not necessarily expect from a scripted drama. The movie is all the richer for it and is all the richer for the stellar performances put in by Hunt, Hawkes and co-star William H Macy.
Many have wondered why The Sessions didn’t feature more in this year’s Oscars list. As it is, Helen Hunt has been nominated for the Actress in a Supporting Role award – a testament to the quality of the acting, for a movie with such unusual subject matter. Our reviewer was impressed by the handling of The Sessions, by breakthrough director Ben Lewin: “Lewin refuses to shy away from any aspect of this story, confronting everything in honest, sometimes uncomfortable ways that are never remotely sentimentalized. It would be easy to drift into syrupy schmaltz with this kind of material, but the script maintains a bracingly sharp wit, and the actors cleverly underplay every scene.” The remarkable thing it seems, is that viewers can identify with all of the characters onscreen, despite the unusual situation in which they are found.
The Sessions is released in UK cinemas today (January 18, 2012).