The Sessions Blu-ray Review
Written and Directed by Ben Lewin, based on the original article by Mark O’Brien
New to Blu-ray and DVD from Fox Home Entertainment is the inspiring true story of Mark O’Brien in The Sessions. The biopic is the brainchild of writer/director Ben Lewin, himself suffering from polio as a child which has resulted in him requiring crutches to maneuver with for the rest of his life. The similarities between Lewin and O’Brien’s backgrounds gave Lewin a unique and experienced vision in which to craft the film.
Paralyzed and confined to an iron lung since childhood after being stricken by polio, poet-journalist Mark O’Brien (Hawkes) has overcome adversity time and time again. But now, at age 38, he faces his toughest challenge yet, losing his virginity. After being assigned to write an article on sexuality in the world of the disabled, Mark himself decides to consult a sex surrogate for his own issues. With the help of the beautiful therapist (Hunt), a sympathetic priest (Macy), and his own unbridled sense of optimism and humor, Mark embarks on an extraordinary personal journey to discover the wondrous pleasures that make life worth living.
The Sessions features some exceptionally brave and bold performances that elevate it above the “movie of the week” level script. The story is pretty standard fare, outside of the humor and comedic timing exhibited by Hawkes as O’Brien, and the outcome of the film should not come as too much of a surprise even if you have no knowledge of O’Brien’s story. Hawkes is exceptional here, with a razor sharp and complete body transformation, there is no CGI used in his performance at all, he manages to twist and contort his physical frame into positions unthinkably painful. Hunt’s performance is equally as brave, her role requiring her to be completely naked for close to half of her screen time means the role could only be played so effortlessly by someone completely secure in their physical features. Macy’s time may be limited in the film but his work here is also very good as the priest who befriends and encourages Mark, but his character is one of the ones hampered the most by the generic script.
The film’s pacing is good, clocking in at 95 minutes, though there are sequences that do tend to drag a tad with exposition. The production looks sharp as its clear much thought and preparation was placed in realizing the setting and surroundings, made easier of course due to the real life nature of the story. Images such as Hawkes on a gurney in the aisle of a beautiful church while conversing with Macy’s priest and the tiny insular world of Mark’s apartment, overrun by the gigantic iron lung in the middle of the room, are fantastic in conveying tone and setting.
The Blu-Ray comes loaded with special features including many fetaurettes examining the behind the scenes aspect of the film. John Hawkes becomes Mark O’Brien, Helen Hunt as the Sex Surrogate, The Women Who Loved Mark O’Brien, Writer/Director Ben Lewin Finds Inspiration, A Session with the Cast are all easily digestible chunks of goodness focusing on the production of the film. The disc also features a section of deleted scenes that did not make the movie.
Overall The Sessions does enough right, especially with our two leads here, to warrant a successful film. And while the film does have issues there is more than enough here to recommend the film for purchase and rental.
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