Sponsored by Jennifer Coslett MacCready
Directed by Ben Lewin
Starring: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy
Produced by: Judi Levine, Stephen Nemeth, Ben Lewin
The compulsively watchable John Hawkes (Martha Marcy May Marlene, MVFF 2011) has a knack for creating deeply visceral characters. Even at his most contained, his sinewy frame seems to vibrate with impending explosion. In Ben Lewin’s award-winning drama, he gives his most physical performance yet by barely moving at all. Portraying Berkeley-based poet-journalist Mark O’Brien, confined to an iron lung by childhood polio, Hawkes crackles with wit, frustration and anticipation as he attempts to lose his virginity to a professional sex surrogate (Helen Hunt). The sex scenes, while fairly explicit, offer something more subversive than titillation: sex as a means to spiritual salvation. Hunt’s revelatory performance channels a refreshing earthiness that exposes Mark’s deep-seated fear and religious guilt—regularly confessed to his priest, played with wisdom and humor by William H. Macy (MVFF 2001 Tributee). Often funny and exceptionally moving, The Sessions asserts that even if the body is a cage, with its embrace, the mind and heart can still soar.
Film Note Writer: Michelle Devereaux