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Still shot from the movie: The Sessions.

The Sessions

While many movies have been made about teenaged boys trying to lose their virginity, this script takes a slightly different angle. This time the goal belongs to a man in an iron lung. And instead of peer support, he turns to his therapist, a priest and a professional sex surrogate for help.

Overall Grade: --
Violence: --
Sexual Content: --
Language: --
Drugs/Alcohol: --
Release Date: 18 Oct 2012
Run Time: 98
MPAA Rating: R


In-Depth Review

Release Date: 19 October 2012 (Limited)

Because we usually only review G, PG, and PG-13 movies at Parent Previews we did not review this title. For your convenience, we have provided some brief information about the film’s synopsis and content.

Brief Summary: The Sessions is a film based on a true story about Mark O’Brien, a childhood polio survivor who, due to nearly complete paralysis below his neck, is dependent on an iron lung for most of his breathing. Eventually attending UC Berkeley and completing an English degree in five years, Mark also wanted the experience of having a sexual relationship—the main focus of this film.

In the movie Mark (John Hawkes) hires Cheryl (Helen Hunt) to help him achieve this goal. Many scenes in the movie depict their sessions with Cheryl (Hunt) seen completely naked in multiple shots. While the sexual relationship is handled on a very clinical level, there are detailed sexual discussions and sexual activity is depicted without explicit visual details.

Content Details: Beyond the Movie Ratings...

This additional information about the movie’s content is taken from the notes of various Canadian Film Classification boards:


- Some scenes may frighten children.

Sexual Content:

- Frequent use of explicit sexual language and descriptive sexual references, often in a clinical context.

- Infrequent portrayals of sexual activity in a therapeutic context (with breast and buttock nudity, and female frontal nudity shown.)

- Implied sexual activity.

- Depictions of nude breasts, buttocks and pubic regions in a sexual situation.

- Full frontal nudity in a sexual situation.

- Simulated sexual activity.

- Sexual references and innuendo.


- One use of the sexual expletive in a non-sexual context.

- Infrequent use of scatological slang and slurs.

- Approximately 61 instances of sexual language.

Drug and Alcohol Use:

- Smoking.

- References to drugs, alcohol or tobacco use.

Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...

For further information about the real Mark O’Brien, check these sources:
New York Times article at the time of his death in 1999.
An article on that speaks about his life including briefly discussing his sexual surrogate.

Video alternatives

This less than mainstream script stars some well-known actors, such as Helen Hunt (Soul Surfer, Pay It Forward) and William H. Macy (Sahara, Seabiscuit).

Home Video Notes

The Sessions releases to home video on February 12, 2013.

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About the Reviewer: Donna Gustafson

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