The Sessions (Blu-ray)

February 28, 2013 6 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Life can throw some curve balls to us humans.  I feel that I’m very fortunate to have all of my senses, be in good health with no major problems (physically or emotionally) and have what I’d refer to as a good life .  Others aren’t as lucky and it’s by no fault of their own – it’s just the way things happened.  Take “Mark” the character in The Sessions, who was stricken by Polio as a child and has spent the majority of his life in an iron lung.  Is that a way to live?  It’s a matter of perspective.  To some, it’s no way to live at all.  Others might feel that only being able to move your head is a vast improvement over not being able to see or hear.  Whatever your particular stance on disabilities, it’s often very inspirational seeing how people choose to live their lives given the had they’re dealt.

The Sessions takes place in the late 80’s as we meet Mark (John Hawkes), a victim of Polio and who lives his life in an Iron Lung.  He’s able to get out for a few hours each day and, at the age of 38, has decided that he wants to lose his virginity. He’s not paralyzed, he has feeling in his body, he’s just unable to move below his neck.  It’s through a strange set of circumstances that he meets Cheryl (Helen Hunt), a “sex surrogate” who will help him with his request.  Mark, a devout Catholic takes the advice of his Priest (William H. Macy) and pursues Cheryl through a series of “sessions.” Obviously there’s more to the film than just sex as Mark’s views on life, love and relationships are also explored.

Both Helen Hunt and John Hawkes were nominated for Academy Awards, though both lost (Hunt to Jennifer Lawrence and Hawkes to Daniel Day Lewis who, ironically won his first Best Actor Oscar for playing a man who only had movement in his left foot).  The writing and acting were top notch and I’ll just come out and say it – if you’ve been clamoring to see what Helen Hunt looks like fully nude, well the wait is over!  Yes, she’s pushing 50 and maybe it would have been more attractive about two decades ago, but you do see Hunt in several scenes in all her glory.  Hawkes puts in an amazing performance considering he can really only move his head and William H. Macy also delivers as the Priest with the “Aw shucks…” mentality.  This also reminded me of 50/50, another great film dealing with an adolescent and his struggle with Cancer.  Recommended.

Video: How does it look?

In spite of the subject matter, The Sessions looks rich and sumptuous in this 1.85:1 AVC HD transfer.  Set in Southern California, the colors pop, the trees exude green, the sky a rich blue and flesh tones seem warm and natural.  Detail is as expected and we do get a look at the somewhat deformed body of Hawke’s character.  As mentioned, there’s also plenty of skin on Helen Hunt’s side as well.  This is either good or bad depending on your particular perspective.  Contrast and black levels work in cohesion with one another and look great.  All in all it’s indicative of a new to Blu-ray film and one that won’t disappoint.

Audio: How does it sound?

At the time of viewing I thought I was more impressed with the video, but after reflecting back, not so much.  The included DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack has a few moments, but by and large it’s a dialogue-driven track that has a few limitations.  Though the surrounds do get involved in a few scenes, the front stage is the more lively of the two with dialogue sounding rich and crisp.  I’m not sure if Helen Hunt was doing some weird accent or it was her natural one, but she seemed to have this strange way of pronouncing the character’s name with it coming off sounding like “Maak” as opposed to “Mark.”  Maybe her character was from Boston.  I don’t know.  At any rate, it’s a nice, solid track, but not one to get too excited about.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The disc comes with some acceptable supplements, but some are just fluff.  Some deleted scenes are included though the one feature that I really enjoyed was “A Session with the Cast” with the others being rather dry “John Hawkes Becomes Mark O’Brien” and so forth.  I’d have liked to hear a commentary from writer/director Ben Lewin, but alas…there is none.

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