7.2/10
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139 user 340 critic

The Sessions (2012)

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A man in an iron lung who wishes to lose his virginity contacts a professional sex surrogate with the help of his therapist and priest.

Director:

Ben Lewin

Writers:

Ben Lewin (written for the screen by), Mark O'Brien (article)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 18 wins & 63 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
John Hawkes ... Mark
Helen Hunt ... Cheryl
William H. Macy ... Father Brendan
Moon Bloodgood ... Vera
Annika Marks ... Amanda
Adam Arkin ... Josh
Rhea Perlman ... Mikvah Lady
W. Earl Brown ... Rod
Robin Weigert ... Susan
Blake Lindsley ... Dr. Laura White
Ming Lo ... Clerk
Rusty Schwimmer ... Joan
Jennifer Kumiyama Jennifer Kumiyama ... Carmen
Tobias Forrest ... Greg
Jarrod Bailey ... Tony
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Storyline

At the age of 38, Mark O'Brien, a man who uses an iron lung, decides he no longer wishes to be a virgin. With the help of his therapist and his priest, he contacts Cheryl Cohen-Greene, a professional sex surrogate and a typical soccer mom with a house, a mortgage and a husband. Inspired by a true story, The Sessions, follows the fascinating relationship which evolves between Cheryl and Mark as she takes him on his journey to manhood. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

THE FESTIVAL HIT OF THE YEAR!


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong sexuality including graphic nudity and frank dialogue | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Fox [United States]

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

16 November 2012 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Surrogate See more »

Filming Locations:

San Francisco, California, USA

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$113,467, 21 October 2012, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$6,002,451, 14 March 2013

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$9,138,338, 14 March 2013
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby | Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

John Hawkes avoided exercising before and during filming. See more »

Goofs

Rhea Perlman's name is spelled Pearlman in the end credits. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Bill Hillman - Reporter: Mark O'Brien has been going to UC Berkley since 1978. That's O'Brien in the motorized gurney heading for class last week. He had polio when he was six years old. The disease left his body crippled, but his mind remained sharp and alert. And since he wanted to be a writer, Mark O'Brien entered Cal to major in English and learn his trade. He wrote this poem for us about school here and about graduation.
Mark O'Brien: Graduation. Today I hear the crowd's applause. Receive the congratulations from ...
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Connections

Featured in Film 2017: Episode dated 16 January 2013 (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

I Go All to Pieces
Written by Jeff Meegan (as Jeffrey S. Meegan)
Performed by Jeff Meegan
Courtesy of Heavy Hitters Music Group
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User Reviews

 
Real, raw and touching, but hampered
26 July 2013 | by eonbluedan-1See all my reviews

Writer and founder of a small press which published works by disabled authors, Mark O'Brien, was struck completely disabled and iron lung- dependent by polio when he was young, and he has a goal: He wants to enjoy the pleasures of a woman before he "reaches his use-by date", as he puts it. The line is delivered by John Hawkes, who plays O'Brien, with both the sense of humour, and the sensitivity, which typifies the handling of the subject matter in 'The Sessions'.

Ben Lewin, whose work has been primarily in TV and documentaries, brings John Hawkes together with Helen Hunt in a screen partnership that has to be one of the most intimate and trusting I have seen between two actors for some time. Hunt was up for an Oscar for her portrayal of professional sex surrogate Cheryl, who takes on the task of helping Mark achieve his goal. Their encounters are beautifully played, with the balance of awkwardness, fear and joy well judged enough that you truly feel in the room. The scenes seem raw and real, and the result of the writing is one of a film which does not snigger, nor encourage sniggering, at the idea of sex on screen; there is a directness, and explicitness about the issue, which to my pleasant surprise, actually manages to underscore the importance of the emotional resonance of sex, and its importance in our life. It would be easy to imagine this simply becomes a dirty joke. To the contrary, the sex is not sexy, but rather functional; the conversations they have and the depiction of Mark's struggle with his journey to manhood, becomes touching. There is something in the way sex is explored that brings to mind what D H Lawrence was trying to do with his infamous classic; rather than nudge and wink, the story looks directly at what sex is and why it matters.

Frustatingly, the direction seems shy of delving into the personal relationships and history of Cheryl; it also seems intent on putting the female form on full show whilst never completely exposing the male at the centre of the story. If this was an artistic choice, I wonder what the aim was; one would assume, in fact, that as the story moves forward, both character would become more exposed. The film also struggles to bring a key character to life; Father Brendan, played by the ever reliable William H. Macy, never seems complete. It is hard to pin down why, because Macy does not do anything wrong, but there is something in the scenes featuring Mark and the priest, which despite some deftly delivered humour, feel tough to buy.

The heart of the film is that central relationship, though. Limited to six sessions, for obvious reasons, we watch an unusual, touching bond grow, and despite the hurried nature of the story arc, it makes 'The Sessions' worth your time.


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