“The Sessions” is based on the triumphant true story of Mark O’Brien, a poet and journalist whose childhood bout of polio left him paralyzed from the neck down. Confined to a gurney and an iron lung, Mark’s spine was locked in a curve and his head was barely able to move. For a few hours a day he was freed from the iron lung by a portable respirator, but these hours were always a risk.
At the age of 38 Mark (John Hawkes) became obsessed with the idea of losing his virginity. A deeply religious Catholic, he consulted his friend and priest (William H. Macy) about the idea of having sex outside of marriage. After receiving the priest’s blessing and his therapist’s encouragement, Mark hired a sex surrogate, Cheryl Cohen Greene (Helen Hunt), to help him on his unlikely journey.
Cheryl set the tone with their first encounter, explaining that she’s not a prostitute, she’s a happily married mother, the two of them will be limited to six encounters, and that they aren’t forming a long-term relationship. The film is about the sessions that Cheryl and Mark had together, and the effect that these sessions had on them.
A sensitive exploration of love and sexuality, “The Sessions” was written and directed by Ben Lewin, based on the autobiographical work on Mark O’Brien. Scheduled for a limited release on October 19, 2012 by Fox Searchlight Pictures, the R-rated drama also stars Moon Bloodgood.