Nude Helen gives a therapy treat

Last updated 12:00 08/11/2012
sessions
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DARING: Helen Hunt plays therapist Cheryl Cohen Greene and John Hawkes plays her patient Mark O’Brien in The Sessions.

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REVIEW: The Sessions
M, 1hr 38min
Reviewed by Peter Lampp.

Having survived a wee dose of polio during the last New Zealand epidemic, I have never so much as received a free car park.

But California poet and author Mark O'Brien (John Hawkes), parked up flat on his back for his entire life thanks to polio, gets to disarm beautiful women.

In this case, it is the wonderful girl-next-door actress Helen Hunt portraying Cheryl Cohen Greene, a professional therapist also known as a sex surrogate.

And we see it all, Hunt in bra and knicks and then the nuddy from almost go to whoa, as she goes about treating the poor, prostrate patient. It is a daring role undertaken by Hunt, aged 49, a mother, yet with not a stretch in sight. It's a very sexually graphic role she could not have performed with her gear on.

The movie is totally factual. Director Ben Lewin was also a polio sufferer who had happened upon O'Brien's story online and he has made it work on screen.

It must be the season for disability-themed movies. There is a parallel with the hugely popular French drama-comedy The Intouchables, doing a roaring trade in Palmerston North, about an irreverent caregiver and a paralysed patient.

Davies isn't a paraplegic as such. While the muscles from his neck down don't do much, he has feeling through his body - and notably down there. So like any chap with urges, he's determined not to die wondering.

And like any good chap, he firstly seeks the assent of his parish priest, played by an overly hairy William Macy, before enlisting the help of the therapist.

Cheryl had to be very hands-on in this therapy and everything is laid bare, thankfully except O'Brien's crankshaft.

It is superb, gutsy acting from Hunt and especially Hawkes. As O'Brien, he had to spend much of his time inside a great iron lung - they still had these great contraptions in the 1980s.

Hawke's body looked out of kilter, but apparently Lewin stuck a great hunk of foam beneath him to create that effect. Hawkes had to be speech impaired, be able to use a mouth stick and his performance deserves the highest accolades because most actors act standing up.

It is brave film-making, humorous and endearing, another of the must-sees from recent weeks.

It is not a movie for pervs to be titillated by, it is sex therapy uncovered. But oh, Helen looked great!

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