My Name is Mark O'Brien and this is My Quest for Humanity


The Sessions (2012)
A Review by Ben Hunter
4½ Out of 5 Stars
October 19, 2012

"Get to the Point Ben!"  This is for adults only!  That’s for darn sure!  But it’s not for horny geek boys either that just want to see a woman “in all her glory”.  It’s a story of a man seeking manhood, but romanticized in a poetic nature.  So the film probably connects better with women, but adult men can LOVE it just as much.  Yes, as a man, I loved it!

“There’s so much of it to wash.  'It' being me, a former person.  Now something that must be washed everyday in so little time.  50 minutes outside my breathing machine and all I can do is stare as my breath recedes like the woman who would not love me.  I begin to fantasize about gusts of air rushing down my windpipe with hurricane force. Garish and impossible they’re respiratory porn.  Once back in and turned on, I cough violently and with conviction.  Shocked by the force of the inrushing air.  I feel my lungs expand like birthday balloons. My terror-flattened mind pops up into 3-D as I return to the land of the breathing."

My name is Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes), and I’m a freethinking spirit in a paralyzed body. 

I breathe through an iron lung, a metal breathing machine that my body stays within for the majority of the day.  I tried living in a nursing home for immediate, constant care, but after 2 years I couldn’t take it anymore.  I’m 36; I need my freedom; so I got an apartment in Berkley where I relocated to awhile back to attend UC Berkley and graduated from.  I still need an assistant though to come over daily and wash me, dress me, feed me, keep my things near in case I may need them.  For instance, my mouth stick that I use to tap a keyboard with so I can write my poetry.  “Breathing” is my proudest accomplishment. 


“I like to write poetry because it comes out of my soul.  It helps me to say what I want more.  It has a certain excitement that nothing else has.”

My name is Mark O’Brien and I’m a poet. 

Day in and day out I lay in my bed staring at the Maltese hanging on my wall.  I hate looking at the same things over and over.  As an artist I need to feel inspired, for my words to bring life into others as they do to me, the new me and not my former person that needs to be looked after all day long.  I want to get out and feel the wind on my face, to see it blowing the leaves in the trees and affecting the lives of others around me that I want to connect with. 

I live alone in a dirty apartment. The little connection I make with humanity is with the assistants I hire.  I find myself attracted to each new girl as they come along.  My last one, Amanda (Annika Marks), had trouble with her boyfriend because of my words.  I find it hard to not feel a little proud that I can arouse a woman and make her feel wonderful and beautiful, no other way than how we men should make them feel.  My current girl Vera (Moon Bloodgood) she’s a little older and knows how to control her emotions a lot better.  But I can still see my charm breaking through every now and then by the genuine smiles she often glows with, which always works wonders for my manhood.  Yet no one has ever touched me except to bathe me.  No one has ever caressed me unless by accident when dressing me.  No one has ever explored the   I have never intimately touched a woman.  I have never known what it’s like to feel the smooth vulnerability of her breasts and the parts that make her giggle.  I long to feel the gentle weight from the welcomed pressure of her body on top of mine.  To feel the sweet tickle of her hair from the movements she does to pleasure me would kindly stroke my ego.  How I would love to see her feel truly satisfied because of the pleasure I’ve given her. 

My name is Mark O’Brien, and I’m a virgin.

Do I blame the 6 year old back home in Boston that got Polio and stopped me from living in a sense?  Well, I’m a faithful, practicing Catholic.  And as such, “I believe in a God with a sense of humor.  I would find it absolutely intolerable not to be able to blame someone for all this.”  Father Brendon (William H. Macy) has been extremely helpful.  I’m truly thankful to have him to confess my heart to, a glorified assistant in a sense.  So naturally, one day I confessed my desire and urge to please a woman.  Who said it’s sex outside of marriage but that he felt the big guy would give me a pass on this one and gave me his blessings to go for it. 

Cheryl connecting with Mark during a session.
My name is Mark O’Brien, and I’m now intrigued!

So with the help of a therapist I found Cheryl (Helen Hunt), a sex surrogate to help fulfill the true wonders of my manhood.  Thanks to Cheryl and her “sessions”, I’ll be able to explore the wonders of intimacy with a woman someday, because Cheryl will be instructively intimate with me first.  Her work is to help those with their partners either current or future.  But all I can think of is the present.  I’m about to have sex with a woman for the first time.  I’ve never seen a woman in her true, beautiful state.  How she looks in the way that only her man that loves her should see her as.  Does she even like me?  Hopefully she won’t be too disgusted by my appearance or the fact that I can’t initiate any kind of physicality.  I would like to think no one likes to do all the work during sex.  Or do they?  I don’ know, this all foreign to me.  I’ve never thought about this thoroughly because I never thought I’d EVER be at this point in time.  Cheryl and I will probably only have a limited number of sessions to explore the basics of physical intimacy.  Will I even make it to that number?  Can I even get past the first session?  I sure hope I can please her, in the way a man should please a woman.  Vera tries to calm me down as the day approaches, but I’m SO nervous about this!  I just want things to be perfect, at least okay.

The day gets closer and closer, I have less and less time to think about this and process it. 
It’s the day before my first session now and the more I’ve talked with Father Brendon and Vera about this; I realize that things will be okay.  I realize that before I meet Cheryl tomorrow, I know I may be scared, but my vulnerability makes for something amazing to happen tomorrow!  ANYTHING can happen.  Stop focusing on making a negative impact Mark.  You can also just as easily make an amazing positive impact as well!  I maybe trapped in a disabled body; but I’m a creative spirit, a poet, an intrigued man blessed with an amazing story to tell and to help others with.  After tomorrow I’ll be able to one day tell a woman, “don’t worry, I’m not a virgin (wink)”.  I can live again!
Thank You Amanda,

Thank You Vera,

Thank You Father Brendon with all my heart,

Thank You Cheryl, with every ounce of gratitude a person can have, with all the love that I can possibly give someone, with everything I hold dear; for completing my journey into manhood, and for opening yourself up to me.  I love you for helping me realize … who I am …

My name is Mark O’Brien … and I’m happy!

The Sessions
Drama, 95 Minutes, R
Written & Directed by: Ben Lewin
Cast: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, Moon Bloodgood, Annika Marks, & William H. Macy 

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