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The Sessions (2012)


Average Rating: 7.9/10
Reviews Counted: 186
Fresh: 174
Rotten: 12

Critics Consensus: Tender, funny, and touching, The Sessions provides an acting showcase for its talented stars and proves it's possible for Hollywood to produce a grown-up movie about sex.

Average Rating: 8/10
Reviews Counted: 47
Fresh: 44
Rotten: 3

Critics Consensus: Tender, funny, and touching, The Sessions provides an acting showcase for its talented stars and proves it's possible for Hollywood to produce a grown-up movie about sex.


Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 22,768


Movie Info

Based on the poignantly optimistic autobiographical writings of California-based journalist and poet Mark O'Brien, The Sessions tells the story of a man confined to an iron lung who is determined - at age 38 - to lose his virginity. With the help of his therapists and the guidance of his priest, he sets out to make his dream a reality. -- (C) Fox Searchlight

R (for strong sexuality including graphic nudity and frank dialogue)
Drama , Comedy
Directed By:
Written By:
Ben Lewin
In Theaters:
Feb 12, 2013
Box Office:
Fox Searchlight Pictures - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for The Sessions

All Critics (186) | Top Critics (47) | Fresh (174) | Rotten (12) | DVD (3)

Lewin, who has fought his own lifelong polio battle, handles tricky material with a gentle, empathetic touch.

Full Review… | January 15, 2013
Time Out
Top Critic

Thanks to Lewin's light but assured touch, The Sessions never wears its theological preoccupations heavily, instead allowing transcendence to creep up on the audience quietly.

Full Review… | January 8, 2013
Washington Post
Top Critic

A very different kind of love story, breaking taboos lightly, with sensitivity and humor.

Full Review… | January 4, 2013
Top Critic

Achieves its sunny disposition by pulling punches.

Full Review… | November 23, 2012
The Atlantic
Top Critic

A funny, tender and mostly unsentimentalized movie about physical and emotional triumph.

Full Review… | November 8, 2012
Top Critic

An absolute delight.

Full Review… | November 2, 2012
Detroit News
Top Critic

The Sessions is a tender, well-intentioned examination of a disabled man exploring his sexual identity, but sometimes a film needs more than just good intentions.

Full Review… | November 25, 2013

May sound like shameless Oscar-bait, but in truth the film is simpler than that, more small-scale, with a light and unpretentious sense of humor.

Full Review… | July 21, 2013

It's difficult not to be impressed with director and screenwriter Ben Lewin's ability to bring this distinctive and surprisingly emotional story to the big screen.

Full Review… | June 30, 2013
Big Hollywood

It's unlike any movie you'll see this year, dealing with delicate subject matter in a refined way.

Full Review… | June 9, 2013
7M Pictures

What stirs you most is the effortless way Hawkes is able to convey Mark's compassion for people far more fortunate than himself.

Full Review… | May 13, 2013
The Patriot Ledger

Survival isn't enough. Acceptance isn't enough. Mark needs fulfillment.

Full Review… | March 28, 2013
Movie Habit

Strong central performances and an endearing premise smooth over some of the more jagged edges of the script.

Full Review… | March 21, 2013
Cinema Sight

Ben Lewin's The Sessions is an emotionally charged film with a smart sense of humor that'll have you tearing up from equal doses of laughter and drama.

Full Review… | March 5, 2013
We Got This Covered

...é motivo de alegria perceber como um homem como Mark O'Brien conseguiu explorar a própria sexualidade mesmo enfrentando a mais brutal e cruel das amarras: não sua doença, mas a crença religiosa.

Full Review… | February 18, 2013
Cinema em Cena

An unexpected gem: candid, touching and funny.

Full Review… | January 29, 2013
Movie Talk

The Sessions proves unusually candid in its matter-of-fact attitude to both sex and nudity.

Full Review… | January 21, 2013

(... ) a remarkable film about disability, incapacity and the joy of freedom in the most impossible of situations.

Full Review… | January 20, 2013
Birmingham Mail

This funny, moving, beautifully acted movie avoids numerous pitfalls.

Full Review… | January 20, 2013
Observer [UK]

Satisfaction guaranteed? Pretty much.

Full Review… | January 18, 2013
This is London

It's Hawkes's portrayal, in all its wit, intelligence and childlike naivety, that really captures the heart.

Full Review… | January 18, 2013
Radio Times

By taking a sensitive, honest approach to this true story, breakthrough filmmaker Lewin both avoids sentimentality and keeps the focus on the inner lives of the central characters.

Full Review… | January 18, 2013

It's a brave performance from Hunt, who spends much of the film entirely naked. Both her and Hawkes are brilliant in a movie that is a massively uplifting experience.

Full Review… | January 17, 2013
Sun Online

The movie becomes a touching, often funny portrayal of sex as a form of kindness and human contact.

Full Review… | January 17, 2013
Daily Mail [UK]

Hunt is a prodigy. No other actress could have brought such easeful transparency, such a glow of givingness, such heedlessness of glamour each time she strips naked.

Full Review… | January 17, 2013
Financial Times

Not only does it deal with sex in a straightforward manner, but it also deals with the equally sensitive themes of disability and religion, all of which writer/director Ben Lewin pulls off skilfully.

Full Review… | January 17, 2013
The Skinny

Audience Reviews for The Sessions


I thought The Sessions was a fantastic film and a very nice surprise. There are no tricks, no twists or any other nonsense, it is all about the characters. The two leads were brilliant, I'm fast becoming a big fan of John Hawkes and I thought Helen Hunt was extremely brave to take on this character and she did it brilliantly. Don't call it a come back. Director Ben Lewin seems to have found the essence of Mark O'Brien's "On Seeing a Sex Surrogate" and has visualised it in perfect balance. It is both funny, sad and thought provoking. A great film that deserved much more praise than it received.

Anthony Lawrie

Super Reviewer

Surprisingly good. Really expected this to be worthy and a bit of a yawner, but it's actually quite funny and sweet as well as sad. Performances are perfect.

Nicki Marie

Super Reviewer


If there's a film that you haven't yet seen from last year's Oscar nominations, this is the next one for you. Heartbreaking, touching, very funny, and educational in many respects, "The Sessions" is a film that speaks about the lives of those with disabilities, and their role in the continuum of human experience. Based on the life of polio survivor and poet Mark O'Brien, the inspiration came from an article O'Brien wrote about his experiences with sex surrogate Cheryl Cohen-Greene and how it affected him for the rest of his life. An unexpectedly short and sweet kind of film, it would have been easy for director and screenwriter Ben Lewin to embellish the story to involve a deeper and more complicated relationship between the two. Instead it details how sex surrogates work through patient's dilemmas, how they remain professional throughout their tenure, and the good they can do, especially for those who suffer through severe disabilities, such as Mark O'Brien. The story remains accurate and poignant, driving home the point that we all can love, no matter how we look to the rest of society. That and it's the cutest story to feature a woman having sex for money since "Pretty Woman" though without the thigh high boots and blonde wig. John Hawkes blew me away as Mark O'Brien, a role that seems to have been tailor made for the character actor. He even went as far as shifting his internal organs with a foam pillow in order to recreate the curvature of O'Brien's spine, and became intrigued by the source material enough to read through all of O'Brien's works. The relationship between them is fairly touching, and for sure never borders on lustful, inappropriate, or misplaced within the narrative of the story. It's simply a sweet little story that doesn't surprise and doesn't nudge controversy. It was really surprising when Helen Hunt got a nomination for Best Supporting Actress since her part is a bit subdued, but thank goodness she did so this film got the proper bump it deserved.

Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

Plenty of nudity, and sex. Not usually my cup of tea. BUT, this was so tastefully done, and the story was so heartwarming, touching, and relatable that it didn't bother me. Excellent performance by Helen Hunt, and a story that is very real, and relevant, to us all in surprising ways.

Cynthia S.

Super Reviewer

The Sessions Quotes

God wasn't actually denying my sexuality. He was just pointing out to me how useless it was.
– Submitted by Frances H (3 months ago)
Father Brendan:
It's amazing to me how often God is brought into the sex act. I understand even among nonbelievers the most common expression of sexual ecstasy is, "Oh, God." Heh.
– Submitted by Nandu J (13 months ago)
Father Brendan:
In my heart, I feel He'll give you a free pass on this one. Go for it!
– Submitted by Carlin L (2 years ago)
She's the most wonderful person on the planet.
– Submitted by Chris P (2 years ago)
My penis speaks to me Father Brendan.
– Submitted by Chris P (2 years ago)

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