Whoever gave the green light to turn the story of Mark O'Brien into a film may be the bravest person in the motion picture industry. Or the craziest. A simple synopsis of The Sessions might keep audiences at bay. But I implore you to see this film, which features two of the finest performances of 2012. This grown-up tale of sexuality is crafted with tenderness and respect, and you will not forget it anytime soon.
Based of the autobiographical writings of O'Brien, The Sessions introduces us to a man confined to an iron lung, a victim of polio since childhood. Although he has no physical control of his body, his heart aches for love and physical affection. So he reaches out to his priest (William H. Macy) and a sex therapist (Helen Hunt) for permission and conjugation. Trapped in his dreams, Mark yearns for all that sex allows—both pain and pleasure.
Mark is played by John Hawkes, who was waiting in the wings for his star-turn and this is it. Hawkes, the craggy-faced, tinny-voiced hillbilly of Winter's Bone, simply can't be forgotten come award season. His performance is as beautiful as his co-star. Hunt, who has been long-absent from the big screen since her Oscar win for As Good As It Gets, bares all physically and emotionally.
With equal parts humor and tears, The Sessions is a very, very adult treatment of the importance of human sexuality and it is delivered with absolute dignity. It's one of the best of the year.