The Life of O'Brien
Having contracted Polio as a young child Mark O'Brien (John Hawkes) has spent the majority of his life unable to move and using an iron lung, relying on carers to do almost everything for him. Now having reached the age of 38 the matter of being a virgin has started to weigh heavy on him and after talking things through with his priest, Father Brendan (William H. Macy) decides to seek help from his therapist. It is how he meets sex therapist Cheryl Cohen-Greene (Helen Hunt), a house wife who specialises in helping those with sexual issues journey in to manhood.
For those who have ended up at this review of "The Sessions" and are yet to watch it, let me tell you now that it is well worth doing so as by the time it is over you will have laughed and also been touched by this well crafted and beautifully acted biopic. Yes that's right, "The Sessions" is based on a true story even though it does sound stranger than fiction and something that maybe a comedian would come up with.
Now I am not going to tell you much about "The Sessions" as this is one of those movies which is best watched with out reading up on it first. What I will say is that it features a beautifully layered story as we encounter Mark and get a glimpse at his day to day life where just something like an itchy nose requires him to use his mental strength to ignore it. We also get a look at his emotions and guilt over how he is, the death of his sister and having a strong faith causes him to seek guidance over his growing desire to have sex. But then we see how Mark, the wit he embraces life with and his resilience has an effect on those who enter his life from Cheryl to Vera, who is one of his carers.
That leads me to where "The Sessions" could not be any better and that is the casting is perfect from start to finish. As such John Hawkes commits to a difficult role using his talent for saying things in just the right way to make his character come to life. But then you have William H. Macy who brings some down to earth compassion to the role of Father Brendan and Helen Hunt who brings out Cheryl's own personal journey as it comes to how she ends up feeling about Mark. The thing is that it isn't that any of the characters in "The Sessions" has great lines or amazingly powerful scenes but it is all the cast, right down to Ming Lo who plays a hotel clerk, gets their characters spot on and so everyone just gels.
What this all boils down to is that "The Sessions" simply works in such a wonderfully memorable way with this touching story filled with compassion and wit which is beautifully acted by a perfectly chosen cast.