The Sessions is the intimate true story of a disabled man’s quest to lose his virginity. John Hawkes plays Mark a man paralysed from the neck down and confined to an iron lung for the majority of his day. While researching an article on the sex life of the disabled Mark is forced to consider his own status as a virgin. After consulting with his liberal priest (William H. Macy) Mark decides to hire a sex surrogate to… well… have sex with him. The sex surrogate in question is Cheryl (Helen Hunt) who has just one rule; they can only have six sessions.
For a film so centred around sex The Sessions is the furthest thing from smutty. We may well get a “brave” performance from Helen Hunt (TRANSLATION: You get to see upstairs AND downstairs) but the nudity in the film is so matter of fact and natural that it couldn’t possibly be seen as gratuitous. The sex scenes are tender, awkward, touching, and funny ranging from functional descriptions and embarrassing moments to what borders on the romantic. While this is not a love story the relationship that develops between Mark and Cheryl is infinitely more believable than anything you will find in the endlessly questionable Pretty Woman.
The Sessions is not a film about sex, it is a film about one man’s self discovery against the odds. At the same time The Sessions is a film about sex. And for once it is not one in which we are invited to laugh at bodily fluids and ogle augmented breasts. This is an adult film about sex. Not an adult film about sex. This is a grown-up film about sex. How refreshing. What is even more refreshing is that at no point is the morality of Cheryl’s profession brought into question. She may well have sex for money but that isn’t the point of the film so there is no sub-plot in which anyone has to come to terms with what she chooses to do for money.
The ending may be a little abrupt but in every other way The Sessions is flawless. You’ll never root so hard for someone else to have sex.