Being human means having some very basic needs. We want to be able to keep ourselves warm with a roof over our heads and enjoy our food. The need for affection and love is very strong too, coded into our DNA. We need to reproduce in order to secure that DNA and make sure a part of us keeps living. Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes) also has these needs, but because of polio can’t move his muscles. He can talk and move his head slightly, but he needs constant help and can’t survive for more than three hours without his iron lung, a big machine which helps him to breathe. He’s very religious and a poet and despite his disability leads a life in which he does achieve a lot. He knows that despite his mental health (and wealth) his body will give up long before he wants it to. At age 38 he has never had sex and when he is asked to write an article about the problems disabled people have with sex he decides he also wants to experience it.
Although he is a slick talker he has never been close to a woman and through his research he hears about a professional sex surrogate he decides that he wants to get into contact with her. The Sessions is about sex, but it doesn’t handle it in a sensational way. It shows the story of a man who wants to experience a pleasure in life he has never had. His therapist, Cheryl (Helen Hunt), is there to have sex with him, but she treats him with respect and tries to help him feel secure about himself when he’s around a naked woman. Mark regularly talks with Father Brendan (William H. Macy) as it’s important to him that he also gets the blessing from the church to do what he does.
The performances in this movie were all amazing. John Hawkes assumes an unnatural pose with his body throughout the movie and gives the character life, by showing a man who despite his disability wants to live life to the fullest. He talks with a soft voice, because the character can’t get much oxygen out of the air. Helen Hunt also impresses and isn’t afraid to bare it all in front of the camera and gives a humanity to her character, who despite her work also is married and has a son. It’s an interesting story and even more so knowing that this is a true story, based on an article which Mark O’Brien wrote. It deals with subject matter you might not think about, but shows that if someone has a disability that this doesn’t mean they don’t have the same needs. Is it a controversial thing to have someone help them? I personally don’t think so and The Sessions makes a good case to support that.