Mark O’Brien, a poet and journalist who died in 1999 at age 49, contracted polio as a young boy and spent most of his life in an iron lung. He wrote by tapping keys with a stick held in his mouth. Ben Lewin’s “The Sessions,” starring John Hawkes in a remarkable performance as O’Brien, is about one disabled man’s quest to have relations with a woman. To do so, he hires a professional sex therapist, Cheryl, played by the equally remarkable Helen Hunt.
Rounding out the expert cast is William H. Macy as Father Brendan, whose droll counsel is a balm to the deeply religious O’Brien. Although stylistically and conceptually it never lifts itself entirely out of the realm of a made-for-television drama – don’t expect “My Left Foot” – “The Sessions” is bracing. It’s also one of the few movies to recognize that people with severe physical disabilities have sexual lives, too.
Grade: B+ (Rated R for strong sexuality including graphic nudity and frank dialogue.)