Blu-ray Review The Sessions Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Feb 13, 2013.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    XenForo Template Movies about real life people are thick on the ground these days, but you’ll look long and hard to find one as amusing and as poignant as Ben Lewin’s The Sessions. This beautifully crafted and superbly acted story of real-life poet Mark O'Brien, afflicted with a debilitating physical handicap but possessed with a wry spirit of exploration, never plays for sentiment but earns its emotions through a handful of memorable characters acted by a terrific cast of artists.

    The Sessions (Blu-ray) Directed by Ben Lewin Studio: 20th Century Fox Year: 2012 Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec Running Time: 95 minutes Rating: R Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, French Subtitles: SDH, Spanish

    Region: A MSRP: $ 29.99

    Release Date: February 12, 2013

    Review Date: February 13, 2013

    The Film

    4.5/5 Afflicted with polio at an early age, journalist/poet Mark O'Brien (John Hawkes) has never let his inability to move anything but his head prevent him from accomplishing his goals including attending and graduating college and pursuing a writing career. But he’s never explored the sexual side of life, and for that he hires a sexual surrogate Cheryl Cohen-Green (Helen Hunt). Over the course of a number of sessions, Cheryl is able to work with Mark to help him achieve his goal of losing his virginity0. The problems arise, of course, when feelings begin to get mixed up with business, and along with numerous intimate conversations with his priest and best friend Father Brendan (William H. Macy) about his sessions and his feelings, Mark realizes his life will be incomplete without a loving companion. Written and directed by Ben Lewin (himself a victim of polio), the film presents its story with both situational humor and a refreshing candor about sex that takes away any embarrassment one might have about seeing intimacy between people where one of them is not in control of his limbs. Lewin doesn’t back away from the nudity inherent in the sessions either though Helen Hunt’s body gets much more graphic presentation than John Hawkes’. One of the film’s most lyrical passages involves Mark’s sense memories as he’s having his first true intercourse with Cheryl, but all of the sexual sessions are handled with taste and present the growing feelings between these two tender souls finding a common bond and leading to some truly moving work by both actors. Much of the film’s humor involves Mark’s conversations with his priest about his urges and his efforts to explore them. In fact, with Cheryl, a lapsed Catholic now converting to Judaism, also a part of the saga, religion plays an important part in the film, but it’s not ham-fisted into the story and never serves as an agent of censure or prudishness to the proceedings. The actors are all so marvelous. John Hawkes is nothing like you ever seen him before as he’s altered his voice and contorted his body to achieve the proper physical presence for Mark who lived most of his life in a iron lung or on a portable respirator. Even with those limitations and using only his head and neck, he’s wonderfully expressive and filled with emotions that play off his face in a somewhat miraculous fashion. Helen Hunt’s matter-of-fact comfort with her body in a variety of situations and her graceful way with both the comedy and the drama of the story is lovely. William H. Macy doesn’t overplay his hand as the priest hearing about these intimate sexual details, and his warm, brotherly affection for Mark is palpable throughout. Moon Bloodgood does terrifically as one of Mark’s caregivers. With poker-faced ease at his moods and suggestions, she’s a wonderfully calming presence in the film. We don’t get to see enough of Robin Weigert as the woman who comes late into Mark’s life, but the few scenes she does have show her effervescence wonderfully.

    Video Quality

    5/5 The film is presented in a 1.85:1 transfer faithful to its theatrical exhibition and in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. This is a gorgeous, very natural looking picture throughout with rich color that seems very true to life and flesh tones that are realistic and very appealing. Black levels are fine for the few scenes set in shadows. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.

    Audio Quality

    3.5/5 The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix basically lets the rear channels remain idle for most of the movie. The music (an understated score by Marco Beltrami) and sound effects spread naturally enough across the fronts, and dialogue has been masterfully recorded and placed in the center channel, but the rear channels are really wasted in this mix.

    Special Features

    3/5 All of the video bonus features are offered in 1080p. There are two deleted scenes which can be viewed separately or in one 3 ½-minute montage. There are five brief EPK featurettes featuring comments from director Ben Lewin and various members of the cast about the subjects in question.

    • Director Ben Lewin (4 minutes) discusses the film as a family affair with his wife, son, and daughter as part of the production team and speaks of his inspiration for the film the article written by Mark O’Brien about his experiences with a sexual surrogate.
    • John Hawkes (4 ½ minutes) is praised by cast members Helen Hunt and William Macy for his commitment to the role while Hawkes himself discusses how he managed to contort his body for the film while cinematographer Geoffrey Simpson adds his own comments about photographing Hawkes.
    • Helen Hunt (4 ½ minutes) discusses how meeting the real Cheryl Cohen-Green was such an inspiration for her performance while the real Ms. Green also makes some comments.
    • “A Session with the Cast” (3 ¾ minutes) is a bit misleading since it’s merely brief behind-the-scenes glimpses of the film in production and comments from the three top stars and the director.
    • “The Women Who Loved Mark” (4 ½ minutes) features interviews not with the real women but with three of the actresses in the film who played real people: Annika Marks who played first love Amanda, Helen Hunt, and Moon Bloodgood.
    The theatrical trailer runs 2 ½ minutes. There are promo trailers for Stoker, Hitchcock, The Oranges, and A Late Quartet.

    In Conclusion

    4/5 (not an average) Wonderfully engaging and quite moving, the story of writer Mark O’Brien makes a fascinating ninety minutes in The Sessions. It’s definitely worth a rental. Recommended! Matt Hough Charlotte, NC

     
  2. mattCR

    mattCR Executive Producer
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    This to me was one of the more effective, touching films of last year. It didn't get enough praise or attention in the theaters for how good it was. This is a difficult subject matter told in a sweet, endearing way that is both funny and effective. A very solid recommend, I was glad to find the disc in my hands this morning and it's a welcome add to my collection.
     
  3. Brett_M

    Brett_M Screenwriter

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    I look forward to seeing this. Thanks for the great review.
     
  4. Adam Gregorich

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    We have 2 copies of The Sessions on Blu-ray to give away to lucky HTF members. To enter send an email to contest 'at' hometheaterforum.com with the answer to the entry question in the subject line.

    Here is the question: What does Mark feel he needs to be complete?

    Put the answer in the subject line of your email and your user name, full name and address in the body of the email. The answer can be found in Matt's official HTF review at the top of this thread. Winners must have a US or Canadian shipping address, be over 18 and a member of HTF. The winner will be drawn at random from all emails received with the correct answer in the subject line. Contest runs through Monday 2/25/13. Good luck
     
  5. Chuck Anstey

    Chuck Anstey Screenwriter

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    On these contests, are you using an email scanner so that the subject line must be exactly what you are looking for or are you reading them and therefore have reasonable flexibility? I have never won and even though I realize the odds say I should not have ever won, I always worry that my entries are going in the bit bucket because I didn't do something right. The "respond to this thread" contests are great because of the visibility of the entry and winners.
     
  6. Adam Gregorich

    Owner

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    Chuck, I look at them and if you have the concept I consider it a valid entry. I then count them, and then use a random number generator to pick the winner(s). Don't give up, keep entering! The winners are Cameron Yee and Charles Ellis
     
  7. Chuck Anstey

    Chuck Anstey Screenwriter

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    All I needed was confirmation that you actually read them so I'm good. Keep the freebies coming and eventually the odds say I (and everyone else) should win one.
     
  8. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    I watched my contest copy (thanks Fox!) last night with the wife and thought it was the epitome of a "lovely film." I didn't realize until reading more about the movie that O'Brien was the subject of the documentary "Breathing Lessons," which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short in 1997. I also didn't realize the documentary was made that long ago. For some reason the name of the film and general subject has lingered in my memory, even though I never saw it. Now I will have to remedy that.
     

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