Highly Recommended
4 stars
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Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
4.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4 Stars
1.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Highly Recommended

The Sessions

Street Date:
February 12th, 2013
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
February 12th, 2013
Movie Release Year:
20th Century Fox
95 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated R
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

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 Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'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.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

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.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

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.

  • A Session With The Cast (HD, 4 mins) - The cast and crew talk about making the film and their characters with some on-set footage and interviews.
  • The Women Who Loved Mark O'Brien (HD, 5 mins) - The cast and crew talk about Mark O'Brien, the man in real life and the women who loved him as we see some footage of the film of the three girls who all fell for him in some way or another.
  • Helen Hunt as the Sex Surrogate (HD, 4mins) - Here, we have Helen Hunt talking about her role as a sex surrogate in the film. She is joined by some of the cast and crew, as well as the actual Cheryl. They discuss what a sex surrogate does and how Helen prepared for the role.
  • John Hawkes Becomes Mark O'Brien (HD, 5 mins) - Jonathan Hawkes talks about prepping for the roles of Mark O'Brien and playing the role of a guy who could only move his head. Some of the cast and crew join in to talk about Hawkes' transformation with some interviews and on-set footage.
  • Writer/Director Ben Lewin Finds Inspiration (HD, 4 mins) - Here, director Ben Lewin, in his ruler themed suspenders, talks about how he came to make a film based on the life of Mark O'Brien. Also, some of the cast and crew talk about Ben and his directing style and how he related to the film, to which we find out he has polio that has caused him to use crutches for all of his life. This also includes some on-set footage.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 4 mins) - There are two deleted scenes here which feature a segment with Cheryl and her son, and one of a fantasy of nurses performing a sort of burlesque Can-Can dance. These scenes really added nothing to the film and I can see why they were left on the cutting room floor.
  • Theatrical Trailers (HD, 14 mins) - The theatrical trailer for the film as well as some other trailers for films not yet released.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no HD exclusives.

Final Thoughts

'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.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray/Ultraviolet Digital Copy

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.85:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1


  • English
  • Spanish
  • French
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Chinese
  • Korean
  • Polish
  • 30 Different Subtitle Options


  • John Hawkes becomes Mark O'Brien
  • Helent Hunt as the Sex Surrogate
  • The Women Who Loved Mark O'Brien
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Writer/Director Ben Lewin Finds Inspiration
  • A Session with the Cast
  • Theatrical Trailers

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