Friday, November 23, 2012

Therapy (Movie Review: The Sessions)

The first part of "The Sessions" is difficult to watch. Set in 1988, it tells the story of Mike O Brien, a 38 year old man who has an iron lung. He can only be off a metal contraption to his gurney for about four hours a day. He is a devout Roman Catholic, and a virgin. But he is a man, and he can still feel sensations in his body, so he asks his priest, played by William H. Macy, if he should pursue to lose his virginity. Startled at first, the priest says, "I think God will give you a pass on this one," and gives him a go-ahead. John Hawkes, in an Oscar-worthy performance, plays this awkwardness with such believability that you cringe. (You really feel his discomfort - there were a couple of walkouts in the theater in the screening I went to) This is such a physical performance without all the obvious physicalities. Each pause in his voice, each tick in his eye, they all serve a purpose, and he flawlessly delivers. Enter Helen Hunt, who plays a sex therapist. She gives a raw and naked performance, both internally and externally. A lot has been said about her nude scenes, but I never felt they were exploitative. She enters this transaction with stern professionalism. ("Unlike a prostitute, a sex therapist doesn't want return business")  But somewhere along the way, it begins to mean something more. And that's when the film hits a stride. It hits you, holds you and doesn't let you go. I had trepidations about the theme of this movie, and when it started, it felt like a documentary. You empathize, but don't connect. Until you do.

This film will make you think about loves in your life. O'Brien wrote that he expects that on his funeral, there will be people who will come and he knows that he will have loved them, and they would have felt his love. To that, one can say that he has lived as full a life as the most abled man in the world. We can all only aspire for such a life.You will enter the theater thinking you will see a story of a sick man, but in the end, it is you who will get therapy.

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