Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Sessions (2012) Review:

The struggle of personal enrichment in life is a confusing path for many people. It really takes concentration and self-control in the individual to think about what they want and what moves them to have this desire. This particular journey is more difficult for others who have specific limitations. When a person has a healthy and able body, they have the power to do anything they set themselves and minds to. For people who have physical disabilities, this power is capped off  depending on where their disability lies. For people with Poliomyelitis or Polio for short, their limitations lies in the physical reality. Every sensory and mental activity remains unchanged, but the strength to move certain muscles have vanished. In today's time, doctors have helped in the prevention of this life changing disease and in most cases things end up fine. However, there are still people that become infected and lose the required muscle control to function normally. This is the story of man with that disease who tested his destiny.

Helen Hunt & John Hawkes
Based on an article written by Mark O'Brien and adapted by Ben Lewin as writer/director to this film, this biopic tells the emotional journey of man just looking to achieve a small accomplishment. Renowned poet Mark O'Brien (John Hawkes - Identity (2003) and American Gangster (2007)) has been a polio victim since he was six years old. Paralyzed from the neck down, living in an iron lung machine day-in-day-out, and tired of caretakers who look at him like he's a chore, decides one day that it's time for a change. The biggest change he wants is to lose his virginity. Seeking advice he goes to Father Brendan (William H. Macy) to see what he should do. At first he thinks he's onto something when his new attendee Amanda (Annika Marks) really enjoys his company, but it turns out he got too attached. Making calls he's given contact information to Cheryl (Helen Hunt - What Women Want (2000)), a professional sex surrogate and therapist Vera (Moon Bloodgood).

Scriptwise, writer/director Ben Lewin has created such touching story. Considering the last script he was ever credited for was back in 1994, that's very impressive. Most of the time when writers and directors have that long of a hiatus, they are no longer in touch with what is currently trending with contemporary audiences when they return. Each lead and main supporting character are exceptionally developed and charming simultaneously. John Hawkes as Mark O'Brien sounds feeble but he does have an energetic spirit for a man who can only move his head. He's even got a bit of a foul mouth. William H. Macy as Father Brendan is comical because of his profession and trying to accept O'Brien's situation at the same time. How many times do priests have to listen to that kind of a story - one that goes against the teachings of god? Even Moon Bloodgood's role that is initially not the most talkative to O'Brien warms up to him.

Helen Hunt as O'Brien's surrogate is astounding. To play such a revealing role (and at being close to 50 at the time) is extremely courageous. Aside from her profession though, she makes her role very appealing through her personality and analytical skills too. Her chemistry with Hawkes is quirky at first but does develop into a touching connection with each other. The only problem in Lewin's script is that Hunt's role doesn't make a lot of sense, pertaining to her life. For her profession, one would think she would live solo, but no. She has a husband (Adam Arkin) who is aware of what she does and isn't very concerned and also has a son (not mentioned if he knows). It's a bit odd to be honest. Controversial indeed. How does a family stick together through that, me. This is it though. What's also great about Lewin's writing is that he also covers how and why getting too attached to someone can be harmful. One can be so caught up in it that they forget it’s business.

"Well.....this is a new request..."
This is why situations like these are difficult to handle. An experience like that is so personal that realizing that it's not real can be very destructive to one's self esteem. The camerawork by Geoffrey Simpson (Life (1999)) was well done. Every scene was brightly lit and completely displays to its audience what they should be seeing. This is from the point of where viewers are introduced to O'Brien in the iron lung, to his travels, where people take of him and when he spends time with others. The more sensual scenes between Hawke and Hunt are pretty graphic but much is hidden too. The music is another step up. Composer Marco Beltrami worked on this project and although his score is much shorter in entirety, it is nothing like his other prior works. Beltrami has a main theme and instead of relying on full orchestra, he calls upon plucking cellos, piano and some synth soundscape. Beltrami is usually bombast in his horror scores but this is a complete 180 change that should be heard.

Helen Hunt's character is really the only one who has a strange lifestyle throughout the film, which makes it questionable but other than this, all characters (including hers) are highly developed. Every scene is well lit, the script is remarkably touching, the actors all perform well and the music by usual horror composer Marco Beltrami demonstrates his capability that he can create music for other genres as well with a very simplistic yet emotional score.

Points Earned --> 8:10

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