The Sessions (2013) – Movie Review





I’m not sure how or when I became aware of sex surrogates, I just know I was familiar with the concept, when I became aware of this film: The Sessions.  I was instantly intrigued when I first learned of the movie and, to be honest, that was during the Oscars.  In case you weren’t keeping tabs, Helen Hunt was up for a Best Supporting Actress award this year. During the broadcast, when the nominees were announced, they flashed over to Hunt and the voiceover guy, gave a quick and concise summary of  the movie plot.  That’s all I had to go on when I made a mental note to check this one out when I got a chance.

Recently, I was sick and moping on the couch because I felt like my head was stuck in a vice grip and I had a boulder strapped to my chest. It was serious times indeed, so I decided I would watch a movie.  Fortunately, The Sessions was On Demand that day.

This one’s based on a real story, the story of journalist & poet, Mark O’Brien.  In the film, Mark (John Hawkes) is 38, brilliant and bottled up in an iron lung.  Mark is also hilarious, awkward, sometimes mean and still a virgin.  He’s hoping to lose his virginity with the help of a recommended sex surrogate, but he’s torn and he’s hoping his priest and subsequent friend, Father Brendan (William H. Macy) can help guide him through this, his most pressing of personal issues.

John Hawkes portrays a sometimes hyper-emotional, buoyant and comical Mark O’Brien.  Mark wears his heart on his sleeve and through his eyes. John Hawkes, seemingly telepathically, transmits even the most nuanced emotions in his portrayal.  Hawkes’ brilliant sense of comedic timing counters the looming nature of Mark O’Brien’s life circumstances, seamlessly. His, was a touching incarnation of O’Brien with comedic melodrama thrown in to make the film resonate.

Interestingly, It turns out, Helen Hunt actually earned that Oscar nomination. She’s certainly still good at evoking deep and warm emotion.  Hunt is the pragmatic, upbeat and friendly sex surrogate named Cheryl. Helen Hunt develops Cheryl into an intriguing mix of professional, kind, sexy, amicable and emotionally starved.  Cheryl is real and Mark touches her with his radiant smile and consistent laughter. Hunt deftly portrays the sensibility, vulnerability and closure that is ultimately necessary to do her job this time.

This review wouldn’t be complete with a paragraph dedicated to William H. Macy.  I’m not sure what it is about Mr. H. Macy, but I smiled the instant he popped up on screen as Mark’s priest.  WMH brings to the movie a thoughtful, honest and well-meaning priest.  His earnest and compassionate performance is notable in many ways.  Above all, the warmth is palpable in H. Macy’s performance and it’s nice to revel in it for a while.  I thoroughly enjoyed his contribution to this film’s overall impression.


This movie is uplifting to say the least.  Fortunately, it doesn’t go so far in this direction that it comes off as overbearing.  As a former Catholic, I can say with a good degree of certainty that the theological moments of the film weren’t eye-roll inducing (due in great part to WHM).  I sincerely enjoyed the broad spectrum of emotions conjured during this movie-going experience. You too will undoubtedly surrender to The [serenity-inducing] Sessions.  Give it a whirl; you can thank me later.


The Sessions (2013) – A


A = Movies this good don’t happen often and If you’re going to watch something you should watch this.  This is exactly what I go looking for when I go to the movies and I trust you’ll enjoy it if you keep an open mind and give it a go.