The Sessions, based on a true story and detailing a paralysed poet’s attempts to lose his virginity through the use of a sex surrogate, is clearly attempting to deal with both disability and love/sexuality in a different and more subtle way than Hollywood normally does. I felt as though it approached the former more sensitively than the latter, perhaps because director Ben Lewin is himself a polio survivor. I just found a lot of the so called ‘pillow talk’ between Mark and Cheryl to be clunky and out of step with the approach towards the subject matter that the film appeared to be searching for as a whole.
It is interesting that the only Oscar nomination that the film has received is Helen Hunt for Best Supporting Actress, not because her performance is bad but because she is a lot less ‘showy’ than the rest of the nominees in that category. I was much more impressed by Hawkes, showing a level of versatility that perfectly expresses why his career has been given a massive boost in the past few years and will surely continue to blossom in the future. It also amused me that, while Mark is miles apart from the characters Hawkes played in Winter’s Bone (2010) and Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011), each of the three is extremely charming in their own way.
The most impressive part of the film is the relationship between Mark and his priest, played well by William H. Macy. Mark seeks a validation that his choice to utilise the services of Cheryl is justified, and the fact that he chooses his faith in God for this leads to the funniest and most heart-warming scenes in the film. This relationship is largely absent from the final 10-15 minutes of the film, where Lewin attempts to tie all the strands up and end Mark’s story in an unsatisfying and forced manner. It didn’t completely spoil the film as a whole for me, but it did ruin a lot of the good work from the actors and the script that came before it.