Home » New (wonderful) film: The Sessions
Community Voice

New (wonderful) film: The Sessions

The Sessions
Directed by Ben Lewin

“The Sessions” is a wonderful film that tells the true story of Mark O’Brien, a Berkeley man and polio survivor who spent most of his life in an iron lung, and whose time outside the machine was still spent flat on his back and limited by the parameters of his physical disabilities. Given his condition, O’Brien reached his mid-thirties having never had sex or a romantic relationship of any kind and decided to remedy that situation. The film is adapted from an article he wrote entitled “On Seeking a Sex Surrogate.”

O’Brien is played brilliantly by John Hawkes, with William H. Macy as his sympathetic (and amusing) priest, and Helen Hunt in a career reviving role as Cheryl, his equally sympathetic and surprisingly vulnerable sex surrogate – and this is a project that seems likely to spawn acting nominations in the new year. It’s also worth noting that it’s a film that addresses the subject of sex openly and honestly, with both frontal nudity and very explicit dialog.

“The Sessions” seems destined to be enjoyed not only by theatrical audiences who will appreciate the touching and personal story, filled with self-effacing humor that pervades the telling, but by students in coursework pertaining to services for people with disabilities and assorted related therapies . It’s an amazing and unlikely combination of “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” and “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and it could be a case study for the now expected use of person-first terminology as the viewing experience transitions from a story about a disability, to a story about a disabled man, to a story about a man with a disability, to a story about a man. It really is a remarkable accomplishment.


"The Sessions" opens today at the Tower Theatre in Sacramento.


About the author

Tony Sheppard

Tony is a Professor at Sacramento State, Co-Director of the Sacramento Film & Music Festival and a long-time writer, primarily on topics related to film and the film industry. He is an active supporter of the local arts community, an amateur photographer, and has an interest in architecture and urban planning topics. He is currently designing a 595 sq.ft. house on a very small infill lot in Sacramento.

Support Local


Subscribe to Our
Weekly Newsletter

Stay connected to what's happening
in the city
We respect your privacy

Subscribe to Sacramento

Share via
Copy link