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Film / The Sessions

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The Sessions is a 2012 drama film written and directed by Ben Lewin and starring John Hawkes and Helen Hunt. Based on the article "On Seeing a Sex Surrogate", Hawkes plays Mark O'Brien, a poet who has been largely incapacitated since a bout of polio when he was six. After a disastrous interaction with one of his helpers, he is commissioned to write an article about sex and the disabled, and thereby meets sex therapist Cheryl Cohen-Greene, played by Hunt. He consults with his parish priest, Father Brendan, portrayed by William H. Macy, and ultimately decides that he wants to lose his virginity before he dies.


This film exhibits the following tropes:

  • Deadpan Snarker: Mark only has his words to interact with the world, and he makes the most of them.
  • Disabled Snarker: As above, Mark can definitely turn on the snark, and he has no trouble using his handicap as the subject of the joke.
  • Dramatization: Mark, Cheryl, and Susan were all real people and the events of the movie happened in similar, if not identical, ways.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Mark falls for three of the five women in his life who are involved in his medical care.
  • The Grunting Orgasm: Consistently for Mark.
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Mark faces this in his life, with the media making a big point of him successfully graduating from college and becoming a writer.
  • Jizzed in My Pants: Before Cheryl, this was the closest that Mark got to sex, often unintentionally with his helpers when they were bathing him. With Cheryl, he fires off too early several times before he gains enough experience to not orgasm at a touch.
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  • Professional Sex Ed: This is Cheryl's job, as it was in real life.
  • Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny: Mark's Catholic upbringing, as well as the difficulties of his condition, leave him leery of giving into his sexual desires. Although, as he says to Father Brendan, he did try asking the woman to marry him.
  • Speed Sex: Between his inexperience, his lack of muscular control, and his sex therapist being a very beautiful and sensual woman, Mark climaxes far too early almost every time. While he gets better, he only gives Cheryl an orgasm once and never reaches his goal of simultaneous orgasm.


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