The Holy Trinity of sex, religion and death comprise the movie "The Sessions," based on real-life disabled poet and journalist Mark O’Brien, played by John Hawkes, prone throughout.
Helen Hunt received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her role as Cheryl, a sex surrogate therapist, definitely not a prostitute as she cautions. She introduces bodies, hers and his, before deflowering lifelong polio sufferer Mark over four meetings. Mark, confined to an iron lung for most of his life, exists horizontally on a gurney and wants to lose his virginity because he’s 38 and "close to his ’use by’ date."
In between the full frontal sessions, he visits his hippie Catholic priest, a craggy William H. Macy, who listens to Mark’s public confessions (his conveyance doesn’t fit into the conventional space), then endorses, and appears to live vicariously through Mark’s discovery of carnal knowledge.
The priest also points out that sex and religion are inseparable bedfellows, as the most common coital cry is "Oh, God!" All of Mark’s discussions and relationships increase in intimacy as they move forward.
Set in Berkeley in the late 80’s, the quiet cast is solid, including crusty caretaker Rusty Schwimmer and the serene Moon Bloodgood. Inspired by the O’Brien article "On Seeing a Sex Therapist," the subject matter is unique, yet the film peters out prematurely, like its protagonist.
The Blu-ray includes deleted scenes, "Writer/Director Ben Lewin Finds Inspiration," "John Hawkes Becomes Mark O’Brien," "Helen Hunt as the Sex Surrogate," "The Women Who Loved Mark O’Brien," and "A Session with the Cast."