I think I was the last one of my friends to see this movie, but I’m glad I did. My husband and I just saw it at the West Newton Theater, a real throwback to the ‘60s. The theatre could use a face lift–much like Helen Hunt’s. Perhaps Helen could recommend someone.
My husband insisted we see it because he’d heard an interview with the real-life Sexual Surrogate. This film is based on a true story and she was talking about her “job.” He was fascinated by the concept, plus he wanted to see Helen Hunt in the buff…me too!
So what’s a sexual surrogate? It turns out she’s not a prostitute, but someone who is paid to help a patient/client “surmount” sexual issues. In this film, Helen Hunt, our surrogate, imposed a six “session” limit on the therapy so as not to create attachment. Hence the title–Sessions.
Have I got your attention? I don’t want to give away the whole story but just a tad to set the stage.
Mark O’Brien contracted polio when he was eight years old and lived his life in an iron lung except for periods of three to four hours, when he could lie flat on a gurney or a bed. He is 38 years old when we meet him–a warm-hearted poet–a religious Catholic, spiritual, soul- searching man. Instantly likable. His eyes dance, his face is playful and open and we fall in love with him as do the three women we meet during the film.
But let’s talk about Helen Hunt–nearing 50 (in the film and in real life), possessing an easy, natural California style–soft hair, loose clothing, fit body–not too thin–just right (in my opinion), and serious. In spite of all this loveliness, she is not sexy–she is mechanical in her role as a sexual partner for the most part.
However, I will admit, I loved watching her 49-year-old body and so did my husband. She was one of us–age appropriate–and that created our deep connection with her. I wonder what man watching this would not want to be in bed with her and how as a woman it would feel to be her?
As voyeurs, we watched Helen undress during each session and take us through the logistics of deflowering our virginal, disabled sweet Mark. We feel joyful as we watch the sexual awakening unfold through his eyes and body. We are moved by his teenage curiosity and vulnerability triggering thoughts of our own first sexual encounters.
Sessions raises so many great issues that are conversation starters for a next movie night with adult kids, a book club, or even better with a spouse/lover.
Here’s just a few topics:
- Sexual Squirm/Comfort Index: How do you feel about watching middle-aged sex vs. 20-year-olds having sex at our age?
- Sexual History: How was your first sexual encounter? And, when was the first time you felt real love and openness from a sexual encounter?
- Jealousy/Open Marriage: Would you be jealous if your spouse was helping a friend with their sexuality in a clinical way? (Her husband’s openness and eventual jealousy opens up this topic.)
- Sex With and Without Love: Do you believe you can have sex with someone who you talk about your vulnerabilities with and not fall in love?
- Religion and Sex: Did the priest, played brilliantly by William H. Macy, cross (hah!) over some boundaries? How does religion play a role in your sex life?
- Sexual Healing: Do you believe talking about sexual issues is healing for you and your partner? (Marvin Gaye thinks so – that’s my favorite tune ever–”Sexual Healing”) Does talking create greater connection or greater tension?
- Hiring a Surrogate For a Loved One: What do you think about hiring a sexual surrogate for an aging parent who has lost their spouse?
This film is not only fascinating, it’s therapeutic. It would be amazing to design a date-night around this movie. Perhaps a “Big Chill” weekend would be perfect to show the film and talk about some of these topics. (I know a good soundtrack.) And, if you have a particularly open relationship with your adult children (or are from Berkeley), perhaps this would be a family movie night and discussion as well.
I would love to be a fly on the wall when this conversation takes place. If you choose to share your feedback on these questions please do send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will create a blog post incorporating the feedback.