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Sex And The Sessions

By Pat Burns, GRAND Regional Editor and Adult Art Cinema Reviewer

Sex is the foundation of the film, “The Sessions.” More importantly, however, this movie explores our innate need to connect emotionally with others, our need for compassion and our capacity to love unconditionally. While sex is important to a healthy relationship, the process of building trust and familiarity are where real intimacy is earned. This thought-provoking film provides unique perspectives on love, sex and intimacy through the eyes of several disabled people and their caretakers.

 “The Sessions” is the true story of Mark O’ Brien (played by John Hawkes), journalist, poet and advocate for the disabled. At the age of six, Mark contracted polio and spent much of his life paralyzed and confined to an iron lung. At age 38, Mark was a virgin and painfully aware of his shortened life expectancy. He was determined to change his fate and experience the joys of love, and love-making, while he still could.

After several failed advances to women he knew, he sought help from one of his occupational therapists. We join sex therapist Cheryl Cohen Greene and Mark on their intimate and thoughtful journey through life, love and lust.


Helen Hunt is pure talent in her role as Cheryl Cohen Greene. Spoiler Alert: There is full frontal nudity. Helen Hunt’s body looks amazing. I’d nominate her for best costume! In a recent LA Times article, Ms. Greene reported that, at age 68, she’s still an active sex therapist accepting referrals from other therapists.


John Hawkes’ dedication to perfecting the portrayal of Mark O’ Brien is a brilliant piece of acting and is often difficult to watch. This painful role required John to have his body twisted for hours of film shooting. He was determined to mirror the physical condition O’Brien during this time of his life.With help from the props department, a “torture ball,” a soccer ball-sized foam pad,was tucked under the left side of his back to require his body to curve dramatically.


With an Oscar worthy cast- John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy – “The Sessions” opens the audience’s hearts and minds in a profound way, unmatched in any other film this year.


Director and Screenplay writer: Ben Lewin, 65, is also a polio survivor.

Stars: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy


Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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