User Score
7.7

Generally favorable reviews- based on 69 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 66 out of 69
  2. Negative: 1 out of 69

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  1. Nov 18, 2012
    10
    John Hawkes plays a man in his late thirties who's lived most of his life in an iron lung. When he decides to explore sex, he seeks guidance from his priest (William H. Macy) and a sexual surrogate (Helen Hunt). Despite how it might sound, there's nothing unseemly or pitiable about this film. It's a sweet charmer with an upbeat disposition. Although he can only use his head, Hawkes creates a compelling character and all of the supporting case turn in captivating performances. Even in the most awkward moments, the humor and buoyant mood make this an uplifting and enchanting experience. Expand
  2. Oct 19, 2012
    10
    The Sessions, starring John Hawkes (Winter's Bone and Martha Marcy May Marlene) and Helen Hunt, is probably the best film I've seen so far this year. Originally titled The Surrogate when it played at the Sundance Film Festival in January and took home a couple of awards, Hawkes plays real-life writer Mark O'Brien, who was confined to a gurney or iron lung for most of his life due to polio. The plot is fairly straightforward: the combination of a lifetime mostly devoid of any intimacy and an upcoming writing job on the sex lives of the disabled leads the 38-year-old O'Brien to hire a sex surrogate named Cheryl (played by Hunt) to help him lose his virginity, with guidance coming from his local priest (played by William H. Macy).

    Hawkes is a revelation, delivering a graceful and affecting performance with essentially no physicality, as he spends the entire film flat on his back and relying almost entirely on his facial performance and voice, which he affects with a slightly nasally tone. Based on his work here, I believe I'll have to go back and revisit the Oscar-nominated performance he gave in Winter's Bone, a film that bored me so much that I bailed out of it about three quarters of the way through. His Mark character is a warm, wickedly funny charmer that will quickly win viewers over (and not out of sympathy for his disability). Occasional voice-overs where Hawkes reads selections of O'Brien's poetry (it's not remotely as painful as it might sound) nicely provide some thoughtful extra insight into his worldview, mostly involving the topic of love. The path leading up to his decision to hire the surrogate introduces us to Macy's fantastic Father Brendan character, who gives Mark his blessing and becomes a source of counsel, friendship, and laughs throughout the rest of the film. Mark also gets encouragement from his two caregivers, including one played in an excellent supporting performance from Moon Bloodgood. Hunt, who has appeared less onscreen in recent years to focus more on directing and theatre work, matches Hawkes' standout work step-for-step, instilling a dignity and compassion to Cheryl as she educates Mark in the ways of physical intimacy. Those teachings tastefully deconstruct the act of sex and all the awkwardness and uncertainty that goes along with it (she also bravely appears completely nude quite a few times). Slivers of Cheryl's home life with her son and husband (played by Adam Arkin) offer just enough of a look into her own growing conflict, which I won't spoil here. Director/writer Ben Lewin, a polio survivor himself, has crafted one of those rare knockout cinematic pieces of work that'll hit you about halfway through watching just how special it is. His efforts and a number of first-rate performances should easily succeed in winning your deep emotional investment in The Sessions, which treats a potentially fragile subject with an admirable maturity and a surprisingly pleasant amount of disarming humour.
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  3. Dec 20, 2012
    10
    If you are avoiding this movie because it's about a man in an iron lung and a sex therapist, don't. It has everything--humor, intelligence, and universality. The writing has not one false note. And if I ever see a performance as superb as Helen Hunt's, it will probably be given by Helen Hunt.
  4. Nov 1, 2012
    9
    An excellent film handled with respect and grace. If it weren't based on a true story, I might have wished for a bit more struggle on behalf of the Catholic Priest - something closer to that of the priest in Million Dollar Baby. Then again, killing someone (euthanasia) is much more serious in the Church's eyes than extra-marital sex. It just seemed a bit like William H. Macy's character went a bit beyond his role and became a bit too much of a rooting friend - can't see it happening in life. But aside from this, I just loved the film. Helen Hunt is fantastic, and Hawkes doesn't disappoint - he's still one of the most underrated and under-praised actors in the biz. Expand
  5. Jan 23, 2013
    9
    Biggest surprise of the year, seen it on a complete whim, and never expected it to be that good! Helen Hunt is amazing and doesn't fail to deliver a very believable performance. the film is written brilliantly, and comes across so real and honest, rather like your watching a documentary. John Hawkes has played this part beautifully and you really do believe this man severely disabled... But, I think this part was written for Sean Penn and the only slight downside to this is John Hawkes does look and sound and act like Penn and it feels he was chosen for his likeness to Penn rather than his talent. The Sessions feels like it wont achieve anything, but after the first 30 minutes it really grips you. All in all a great story made into an even greater film. Expand
  6. Dec 11, 2012
    9
    When this film started for the first half an hour I was thinking how overrated it was and that I wasn't going to like it. Then Helen Hunt entered the picture. To say her character and performance elevated proceedings is an understement. In an extremely brave turn as the sex therapist helping John Hawkes' (Good) polio afflicted and iron lung bound writer she is riveting. I will say here and now that i always begrudged her that oscar win for 'As Good As it Gets' and have never been a fan, but here she won me over with a compassionate and tender performance. In one scene, that had me a blubbering wreck, she breaks your heart. The film does improve on her arrival in it and goes onwards and upwards to an emotional climax. William H Macy adds some humour as the priest offering very flexible guidance, but the reason I enjoyed this film so much is purely and simply down to Miss Hunt. I no longer begrudge her that oscar, It just should have been given for this performance. Collapse
  7. Apr 14, 2013
    9
    How John Hawkes didn't get nominated for best actor I don't know. The Sessions is everything you want in a movie. The acting is superb with a sense of great emotions from tears to laughter.
Metascore
79

Generally favorable reviews - based on 39 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 36 out of 39
  2. Negative: 0 out of 39
  1. Reviewed by: Peter Bradshaw
    Jan 21, 2013
    60
    The Sessions can be sugary, but it's likable.
  2. Reviewed by: Angie Errigo
    Jan 15, 2013
    60
    Formulaic but uplifting, positive and accessible. Fairly graphic sex is handled as tastefully as one is ever likely to see in a crowdpleaser.
  3. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Nov 16, 2012
    100
    The result is a human drama that quietly argues that the gift of life isn't one to be taken lightly.