I haven’t seen Ben Lewin‘s The Sessions since Sundance ’12 or about nine months ago, so I’m catching it again this evening. It felt genuinely touching the first time, and I can’t imagine it not paying off in the same way. This is a spirited, carefully measured, honestly acted film about touching, needing, being open and the finding of fulfillment. I predicted last January that John Hawkes and Helen Hunt would attract some award-season heat, and that seems to be happening as we speak.
I also described The Sessions (called The Surrogate at the time) as an emotionally erotic variation on the themes in My Left Foot, The Sea Inside and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly with a little dash of Who’s Life Is It Anyway? thrown in.
“The only thing the film (i.e., Lewin) lacks is a strong visual imagination,” I wrote. “Any film about a paralyzed protagonist needs to somehow free itself from that immobility. It can’t just be a series of static interiors or the viewer will start to be hemmed in to some degree.” I didn’t add but I would say now that Lewin’s plain, unstudied medium-shot approach doesn’t diminish his film, exactly, but it doesn’t exactly enhance it either. Otherwise, The Sessions is a nice, liberal, enlightened package of feel-good filmmaking, honed and polished and tied with a red bow. Nothing wrong with that.
The Sessions is current running at 95% positive on Rotten Tomatoes.