On the face of it, a movie about a 38-year-old man crippled by polio who seeks a chance to lose his virginity doesn’t exactly seem like the stuff of comedy or even feel-good drama. But premiering earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival to strong reviews, with whispers of Oscar, it looks like “The Sessions” (formerly known as “The Surrogate“) accomplishes just that.
The film tells the true story of Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes), a writer and poet crippled by polio, who sets out at the age of 38 to lose his virginity, with spiritual guidance from his priest (William H. Macy) and a sex therapist (Helen Hunt), with whom he forms a close bond. O’Brien’s tale has already been the subject of the 1997 Oscar-winning doc “Breathing Difficulties,” but this appears to be a lovely expansion of that story within a very accessible movie (which is pretty neat little feat). Our man at Sundance liked the film, but didn’t exactly embrace it saying that it’s “at best talky and static…films like ‘The Sea Inside‘ or ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly‘ have put paralyzed protagonists in the palaces of their memory and imagination, free to roam…”The Surrogate” lacks those things, but it does look, with real intelligence and humanity, at the way sex can, and must, be part of a life lived independently, and is less a cause for shame than a way to explore who we are.”
With award season talk already brewing around both Hawke and Hunt, this film will still be high on our lists this fall. “The Sessions” opens on October 26th — watch below.