Directed by the relatively unknown Ben Lewin, this beautifully emotional piece of cinema stole the show at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. The Sessions explores the themes of sexuality, disability and religion in a refreshing and humorous light, based on the essays of Mark O’Brien (played here by John Hawkes, who’s also currently onscreen in Lincoln), a sufferer of polio confined to a iron lung for many of his waking and sleeping hours, and his experiences working with a sex therapist and surrogate called Cheryl, played by Helen Hunt (As Good As It Gets)
The film is heart-warming with a wealth of interesting and varied characters. Hunt and Hawkes both give wonderful performances, which have been reflected in this year’s Golden Globe and for Hunt, Academy Award nominations. The film is honest, emotional and turns everything you thought you knew about human relationships, disability, religion and sexuality on its head. William H. Macy (US version of Shameless) plays the thoroughly modern Father Brendan, who helps Mark realise the boundaries of his faith are perhaps not as black and white as he once thought, while Cheryl helps him realise that his disability does not have to limit his sexuality.
This film is a fantastic insight into the world of Mark O’Brien, and was produced in his memory, creating a fitting tribute I think he would be proud of.
The Sessions has been a runaway success with critics and audiences worldwide and runs until Thu 14 Feb at Warwick Arts Centre – perfect for an unconventional Valentine’s date!