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Film Description

Film Description


The Sessions

A Special Presentation at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival®, The Sessions is a based-on-fact comedy-drama about a childhood polio survivor (John Hawkes, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Winter’s Bone), now in his thirties and permanently confined to an iron lung, who hires a professional sex surrogate
(Academy Award® winner Helen Hunt) to help him lose his virginity. A warm, heartfelt study in generosity and desire, it is also a rare film that acknowledges the erotic lives of people with disabilities.

His body contorted by polio, Mark O’Brien (Hawkes) spends most of his hours confined to an iron lung. His severe physical limitations have not prevented him, however, from becoming a poet and journalist — he learned to write by tapping keys with a stick held in his mouth — nor have they kept him from longing for one of life’s most treasured experiences: sexual fulfillment. O’Brien is a religious
man, and the first person that he confides in regarding his erotic needs is a priest, Father Brendan (William H. Macy, Magnolia, Fargo). Neither condemning nor condescending, Brendan assures O’Brien that God will look the other way. O’Brien resolutely sets out to find a professional sex surrogate, and has the remarkable good fortune to find Cheryl (Hunt), an articulate, mature and patient woman who gently coaches him in his arduous struggle toward greater bodily
awareness. With time, they will negotiate the possibility of actual intercourse. Along the way, each discovers hidden resources within themselves, and more common ground than either would have expected.

A film like The Sessions relies on strong performances, and it’s hard to imagine a finer cast than that assembled by director Ben Lewin. Hawkes brings tremendous expressiveness to O’Brien, despite being unable to use most of his body. Macy is wonderfully droll as the permissive priest, and Hunt is radiant, compassionate and thoroughly no-nonsense. One of the year’s most authentic and unlikely feel-good movies, The Sessions reminds us what can be achieved when we strive to overcome our preconceptions.


"The Sessions is probably the most lighthearted movie about sex and polio you’ll see this year." —Linda Holmes, NPR

Director: Ben Lewin
Cast: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy
Year: 2012
Runtime: 95 minutes
Country: USA
Language: English
Distributor: Fox Searchlight

Ratings: ON NR / BC NR / AB NR / SK NR / MB NR / QC NR / Maritmes NR


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