The Sessions

First slide

Paralyzed from the neck down by a childhood bout of polio, a 38-year-old journalist and poet (John Hawkes) engages the services of a so-called sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) to help him lose his virginity, an undertaking in which he gains the misguided support of his sympathetic but irresolute parish priest (William H. Macy). Writer-director Ben Lewin's adaptation of Mark O'Brien's autobiographical writings displays an initially ambiguous, but ultimately negative attitude toward the memoirist's devout Catholic faith -- which is predictably identified as a source of guilt and inhibition. As for the titular encounters between the two main characters, while not prurient, they are nonetheless excessively explicit. And scenes showing the surrogate's home life with her husband and teenage son raise the ethical stakes by introducing the element of adultery.

Watch out for: Anti-Catholic bias, a priest character who fails to uphold church teaching, strong sexual content, including graphic scenes of adulterous sexual activity with full nudity, a benign view of nonmarital and aberrant sex, at least one rough term, occasional crude and crass language.

Rated: The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2012