Ben Lewin's 'The Sessions' is a terrific film. John Hawkes and Helen Hunt give award-worthy performances, and Lewin's ability to tell such a magical and funny tale is remarkable. Lewin mixes the art of sex with musings on ethics, humor, religion, and love in a way that leaves you wanting more.
'The Sessions; follows the real life man, Mark O'Brien (Hawkes), who developed polio as a child, causing him to lose the use of all of his body except his head and his penis. Mark is a normal guy who went to Berkeley and had his own house and friends. In his mid 30s now, Mark struggles with relationships and never having had sex. By day he is wheeled around on a gurney, and at night he sleeps in an iron lung. To quote the film, from the neck down "My muscles don’t work so well."
He makes his living as a fairly successful writer and poet. One of his journalistic assignments is to write about sex among the disabled, a subject he is and isn't all too familiar with. Mark embarks on a journey to interview several people with varying disabilities and ask them about sex. That's when he decides he has definitely got to have sex.
However, he has a couple of obstacles in his way. One is the obvious one, which is his condition and the task of finding a partner. The other is his religion. Mark is a somewhat religious man, and he talks to Father Brendan (William H. Macy, who still looks like his character from 'Shameless'). Mark questions the whole pre-marital sex subject with Brendan and knows all too well that it is looked down upon in Catholicism. However, Father Brendan, is a decent guy who understands Mark's situation and gives him his blessing. They even become friends outside the church.
Mark doesn’t have much luck at first, but hears about a sex therapist named Cheryl (Helen Hunt). Cheryl’s job is to help people conquer their fear of becoming intimate, which includes anything from touching to full on sexual contact. I believe the term is a sex surrogate, in which the therapist actually has sex with her patients. From here, Cheryl helps Mark with his problems and they both develop feelings for each other.
It’s a very tender and sweet film, one I think will be nominated for a few Oscars. Both Hunt and Hawkes are amazing in this film. Hawkes especially, as you don’t even see an actor, but the actual Mark O'Brien on screen. I highly recommend this film. It's very enjoyable.
'The Sessions' comes with a great 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The image looks great with the detail being very sharp and pristine. You can make out the imperfections on the actor's faces as well as the stitching in their clothing. The colors are vibrant and never seem vague or muted. The blacks run deep and inky as well here.
In a couple of spots in the film, the image was softened a bit, but I believe this to be in part that the actual film plays like a dream or fairy-tale of sorts, even though it's based on a true story. The flesh tones were natural and smooth, although Helen Hunt's body looked like it has been spray-tanned here and there.
I did not notice any aliasing, edge enhancement, or dirt of any kind on this release.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix, which sounds great.
This is a strict dialogue driven film and fortunately the dialogue is flawless. It comes across crystal clear and is very easy to understand. The score of the film is great as well and comes across nicely from all the speakers, never drowning out the dialogue. The ambient noises of the city and people talking sound okay and tend to be a bit soft. The directionality is decent here, although it is rarely used.
Overall, this audio track sounds good for a dialogue driven film, but don't expect loud sound effects or any kind of suspenseful music with this film.
Most of these extras are under the feature labeled 'Theatrical Featurettes' and were all filmed at the same time, but have been split up into different sections. These are very studio promo based.
'The Sessions' is a great film. Hawkes and Hunt did a phenomenal job in this movie. The video presentation is very clean and looks amazing, with the audio sounding decent for a comedy/drama. The extras were decent as well here.This film is highly recommended.