By Liz Lopez
The Austin Film Festival this past month excelled in its 19th year with many feature films at the Paramount and one of my favorites was on opening night, The Sessions. There was no red carpet for this film with any of the stars, but I would have been excited to have seen any of the great cast in the film. Although this is listed as a drama, this is also unexpectedly hilarious and one not to be missed. To read the synopsis and dismiss it would be an injustice to the film and the content. Certainly it is difficult to view in some scenes because of the content, but it also shows some very human, tender moments many can possibly identify with.
The three main actors in the film are superb in portraying the characters and the supporting cast also has some fine moments in the film. Directed/written and co-produced by Ben Lewin, in collaboration with Judi Levine and Stephen Nemeth, the filmmaker does an excellent job of adapting the auto-biographical writings of California–based journalist and poet Mark O’Brien, who is indeed quite a character who made the most of his life despite some physical challenges.
The film won awards when it screened at the Sundance Film Festival, San Sebastián International Film Festival, Hollywood Film Festival this year and it is deserving of the awards.
It is rated R for strong sexuality, including graphic nudity and frank dialogue, but that is to be expected due to the subject matter. O’Brien (John Hawkes), confined to an iron lung, has excelled in many things, but while in his 30’s, becomes determined to have sexual relations. The Sessions chronicles how he goes about it with the help of Vera (Moon Bloodgood), Cheryl Cohen-Greene (Helen Hunt) and the guidance of his priest, Father Brendan (William H. Macy). Among the varied cast members, Rhea Perlman has a cameo as the Mikvah Lady who Cheryl consults with one day. However brief her appearance in the film; it is very nice to see her on screen again.
There are at least three good films opening on November 9th in Austin, but this is one in its own category and one not to be missed. Among the theaters where it can be found is Alamo Drafthouse Lamar and the Violet Crown Cinema.