The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox – 2012
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 95 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, Spanish/French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Starring: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy, Moon Bloodgood, Annika Marks, Rhea Perlman, Adam Arkin
Written & Directed by: Ben Lewin
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: February 12, 2013
Paralyzed and confined to an iron lung since childhood, poet-journalist Mark O’Brien (Hawkes) has overcome adversity time and time again. But now, at age 38, he faces his toughest challenge yet: losing his virginity. With the help of a beautiful therapist (Hunt), a sympathetic priest (Macy), and his own unbridled sense of optimism and humor, Mark embarks on an extraordinary personal journey to discover the wondrous pleasures that make life worth living.
Going into this review I hadn’t heard the remarkable story of Mark O’Brien, a man stricken with polio at the age of 5. The illness didn’t paralyze him but left him unable to move any part of his body other than his head. This required that most of his days be spent in an iron lung. Regardless Mark attended and graduated from UC Berkeley, produced poetry/articles, and became an advocate for disabled people. He co-founded a small publishing house, Lemonade Factory, dedicated to poetry written by people with disabilities. This is pretty impressive for someone with such a limiting disability.
Not one to rest on his laurels Mark decided to tackle another challenge, physical intimacy. This is the focus of The Sessions. Written and directed by Ben Lewin, the film picks up in 1988 with 38 year old Mark struggling with discontent and frustration brought on feelings/urges that he cannot act upon let alone fulfill. He turns to the local church and confides in priest Father Brendan who lends an empathetic and supportive ear. The two strike up a reciprocal and lasting friendship. With Father Brendan’s moral support Mark follows the advice of his therapist who suggests that he seek out a sexual surrogate to assist him with his first sexual experiences.
Mark is referred to Cheryl, a certified sexual surrogacy partner with a doctorate in human sexuality. In Mark’s case Cheryl will guide him down the path to understanding his body and taking his first steps toward and into physical intimacy and sexuality. For Mark and Cheryl the experience turns out to be something more than either expected…
Wow. The Sessions is an emotive and sentimental drama that tells a very personal and intimate story. Mark’s tale is an amazing one and this snapshot although only one aspect of an incredible life is a prime example of the type of charisma and personal fortitude he had. There is a respectfully erotic aspect to the film that stares you in the face but never feels dirty/cheap. The narrative’s perspective is narrow but not shallow as it provides an enriching text with an emotional edge that is indeed heartwarming. Being a true story its outcome is inevitable however solace can be found in the inexorable soul of its subject and the incredible courage and zest for life that made him loved by all that knew him.
I watched this with my wife and we thoroughly enjoyed its candor, wonderfully infused levity and tender treatment of the subject matter. John Hawkes does a first rate job in his portrayal of Mark both physically and spiritually. I have been a Helen Hunt fan for years. She is devoted to her craft and her performance here is a shining example of that. At a few months shy of her 50th birthday she looks great.
The Sessions is a stirring, poignant and beautifully enacted film that speaks from a humane perspective that never feels melancholy. We loved it….
The rating is for strong sexuality including graphic nudity and explicit dialogue.
AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
The Sessions comes to Blu-ray Disc from 20th Century Fox featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 35 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio that has an average bitrate of 3.1 Mbps.
Colors are effectively used in this film to help set the tone/setting based upon the mood of the scene and characters within it. The chroma range isn’t diverse but hues can vary from being sullen and inanimate to warm and inviting. Skin tones are appropriately bland with natural highlights and descriptive variation. Images onscreen were exquisitely detailed and sharp with superb depth of field and visible texture during wide angle shots. Contrast is spot on and blacks are deep with revealing delineation that provides excellent perceptibility during scenes shot at night or in lower lighting. The video has a clean, pristine quality that enhanced dimensionality and provided a looking through a window effect.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix features dialogue that is full bodied with defining tonal characteristics and prominent soundstage position. High level detail is readily apparent as subtle sound effects, music and voices are rendered with superior clarity and depth. There is little call for active surround activity and extended dynamics however there is frequent use of atmospheric sounds that utilize the entire soundstage in support of the exterior/interior venues depicted in the film. The end result is an excellent audio presentation that renders the soundtrack’s elements with aplomb.
- (HD) 2 Deleted scenes
- (HD) Writer/director Ben Lewin finds inspiration – 4 minute featurette
- (HD) John Hawkes becomes Mark O’Brien – 4 minute featurette
- (HD) Helen Hunt as the sex surrogate – 4 minute featurette
- (HD) A session with the cast – 3 minute featurette
- (HD) The women who loved Mark O’Brien – 4 minute featurette
- (HD) Theatrical trailer
- Ultraviolet Digital Copy
Based upon real events in the life of the incredibly inspirational Mark O’Brien The Sessions is a stirring, poignant and beautifully enacted film that speaks from a humane perspective that eschews an overtly melancholy tone in favor of candor, wonderfully infused levity and tender treatment of the subject matter. It comes to Blu-ray Disc from 20th Century Fox featuring superb high definition video, crystal clear lossless sound a middling array of supplemental material that provide cursory insights from the cast/crew but next to nothing on the real people involved in the story. The Sessions is worthwhile viewing and should move to the top of your rental queue.
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JVC DLA-RS55 3D Ready 1080p High Definition Front Projector
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Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Onkyo PR-SC5508 THX Ultra 2 Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies – 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-103 Universal Disc/3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Panasonic DMP-BDT310 3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
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APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
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Cool Components – CP-CP102 cooling package