A mov­ing por­trait of in­ti­macy

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - MOVIES - Leigh Paatsch Di­rec­tor: Ben Lewin ( Ge­or­gia ) Stars: John Hawkes, He­len Hunt, Wil­liam H. Macy, Moon Blood­good Now show­ing: State Cinema

WHILE The Ses­sions is very much about quad­ri­plegic writer and poet Mark O’Brien, this won­der­fully warm, funny and gen­uinely touch­ing film is not con­cerned with any of his many no­table ca­reer achieve­ments.

In­stead, The Ses­sions cov­ers one goal in life that O’Brien was pre­pared to move a metaphor­i­cal heaven and earth to achieve: the loss of his vir­gin­ity.

Af­ter The Ses­sions in­tro­duces us to Mark ( played to per­fec­tion by John Hawkes), the above task seems even more dif­fi­cult than it al­ready reads on pa­per.

O’Brien is a de­vout Catholic. His faith has seen him through some tough times. The prospect of con­sid­er­ing recre­ational sex – let alone hav­ing it – could be a de­vo­tional deal­breaker.

So Mark is com­pelled to con­sult his lo­cal pri­est, Fr Bren­dan ( Wil­liam H. Macy).

The man of the cloth is as un­sure about this eth­i­cal dilemma as his guilt- rid­dled parish­ioner.

Nev­er­the­less, he gives the godly seal of ap­proval.

‘‘ In my heart,’’ Fr Bren­dan ad­vises Mark, ‘‘ I be­lieve He will give you a leave pass on this one.’’

So now all that is needed is a woman will­ing to go where Mark O’Brien has never been be­fore.

Her name is Ch­eryl ( He­len Hunt, who equals Hawkes’ fine work), a sex ther­a­pist who spe­cialises as a ‘‘ sur­ro­gate’’, us­ing her body to al­low oth­ers to open pre­vi­ously closed doors to in­ti­macy.

Is Ch­eryl a pros­ti­tute? No. The crux of her work is help­ing her clients men­tally pre­pare for the phys­i­cal act of love­mak­ing. Ch­eryl will only ever con­sult with a pa­tient for six ses­sions.

There are rea­sons. Good rea­sons. Ch­eryl is mar­ried. A line must be drawn be­tween learn­ing in­ti­macy and fall­ing in love.

As flagged by the ti­tle, the heart of the film beats strong­est in the scenes shared by Mark and Ch­eryl, all of which are both con­fronting and com­fort­ing in their ex­plicit de­pic­tion of this un­usual brand of ther­apy.

There is noth­ing gra­tu­itous about these scenes, and much em­pha­sis is made of Ch­eryl’s rig­or­ous at­ten­tion to Mark’s emo­tional well­be­ing.

Bet­ter still, the close­ness we are wit­ness­ing on screen – though os­ten­si­bly clin­i­cal in na­ture – deep­ens our un­der­stand­ing and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of both char­ac­ters.

A friend­ship blos­soms be­fore us, an in­spi­ra­tional bond be­tween two peo­ple that has noth­ing to do with sex.

So close down your mis­giv­ings about the sub­ject mat­ter, and en­ter The Ses­sions with an open mind.

I guar­an­tee you will emerge truly re­warded and sin­cerely moved. DON’T let the ti­tle put you off. Es­pe­cially if you’ve been wait­ing a decade and more for some­one to run with the ball Quentin Tarantino put down af­ter Reser­voir Dogs and Pulp Fic­tion. This is a crazed crime thriller with an as­tute comic edge: men­ac­ing, mean­ing­less and mas­sively funny. Colin Far­rell plays an al­co­holic screen­writer try­ing to pen a script about psy­cho killers, and be­ing forced to re­search the topic in the com­pany of ac­tual nutjobs. Sam Rock­well, Woody Har­rel­son and the great Christo­pher Walken are at their bril­liant best when the may­hem breaks out. Writ­ten and di­rected by Martin Mc­Don­agh ( In Bruges ). Now show­ing Vil­lage and State cine­mas VET­ERAN ac­tor Niels Are­strup dom­i­nates as Paul, a worka­holic wine­maker whose grasp of fam­ily re­spon­si­bil­ity is at odds with his ob­ses­sion with the grape. His son Martin ( Lo­rant Deutsch) has reached a point where one would as­sume he be given a guid­ing hand in the busi­ness. How­ever, his fa­ther doesn’t rate him. Not only in terms of what it takes to make a fine wine but as a hu­man be­ing as well. A fa­mil­iar tale in many ways, the un­ease and mis­di­rected emo­tions they har­bour in their char­ac­ters hold the pre­dictable at bay. A must­see for any­one who ap­pre­ci­ates highly skilled act­ing and de­cep­tively in­tu­itive sto­ry­telling. Now show­ing State Cinema

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