Home  |  About Us  |  Contacts  |  Products    
 News Items
 Top Stories
 News Briefs
 Vatican
 Origins
 Africa
 Headlines
 Also Featuring
 Movie Reviews
 Sunday Scripture
 CNS Blog
 Links to Clients
 Major Events
 2008 papal visit
 World Youth Day
 John Paul II
 For Clients
 Client Login
 CNS Insider
 We're also on ...
 Facebook
 Twitter
 RSS Feeds
 Top Stories
 Vatican
 Movie Reviews
 CNS Blog
.
 For More Info

 If you would like
 more information
 about Catholic
 News Service,
 please contact
 CNS at one of
 the following:
 cns@
 catholicnews.com
 or
 (202) 541-3250

.
 Copyright

 This material
 may not
 be published,
 broadcast,
 rewritten or
 otherwise
 distributed,
 except by
 linking to
 a page on
 this site.

.
  Movie Review

The Sessions

By John Mulderig
Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- It's hardly a surprise when a contemporary Hollywood film showcases errant sexual values. What is disconcerting in the case of the fact-based drama "The Sessions" (Fox Searchlight) is the fact that such a skewed understanding of human sexuality should be subscribed to by a character representing a real-life Catholic priest.

As recounted, apparently, in the autobiographical writings from which the movie is adapted, devoutly Catholic 38-year-old journalist and poet Mark O'Brien (John Hawkes) has sought the advice of the clergyman in question, one Father Brendan (William H. Macy), because he finds himself in unenviable circumstances: Paralyzed from the neck down by a childhood bout of polio, and forced to spend most of his time in an iron lung, O'Brien has been deprived -- among many other things -- of the opportunity for physical intimacy.

Having decided to engage the services of a so-called sex surrogate to "remedy" this situation, O'Brien wants Father Brendan's OK for his proposed course of action. Sadly, that approval is all-too-readily forthcoming.

Sympathetic but irresolute Father Brendan, who has previously bemoaned that his training for the priesthood has equipped him with nothing more than a few "vague ideas," takes a moment to pray, then opines that Jesus will give O'Brien "a pass on this one." So O'Brien should "go for it."

However distressing the memoirist's plight, Father Brendan's proper response, of course, should have been to counsel his parishioner that all sexual activity outside of marriage is objectively sinful, and that personal misfortunes, physical or otherwise, cannot alter eternal moral truths.

Given those facts, he should have exhorted O'Brien to exercise his baptismal priesthood by sacrificially embracing the chastity appropriate to his state in life. Undeniably, it would have taken courage to offer such guidance, and courage to accept it. But the cowardly alternative only appears to be compassionate.

So it's off to the races with surrogate Cheryl (Helen Hunt), who insists that, although she's being paid to have sex, her role is quite distinct from that of a prostitute -- though how exactly she never manages to explain. Things only become more jarring when we're given a glimpse of Cheryl's home life with her husband and teenage son, since this raises the ethical stakes by introducing the element of adultery.

Although the titular encounters between the two main characters are not prurient or pornographic, they are nonetheless excessively explicit.

Writer-director Ben Lewin's script, moreover, displays an initially ambiguous, but ultimately negative attitude toward its protagonist's faith -- which Cheryl predictably identifies as a source of guilt and inhibition for O'Brien. Cheryl explains that she herself was raised Catholic but has long since thrown the church over.

In fact, Cheryl is about to convert to her husband's faith -- Judaism. A ritual mikvah bath undertaken as part of that process becomes an opportunity to show the Jewish faith as more body-positive than Catholicism.

The film contains anti-Catholic bias, a priest character who fails to uphold church teaching, strong sexual content, including graphic scenes of adulterous sexual activity with full nudity, a benign view of nonmarital and aberrant sex, at least one rough term and occasional crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

- - -

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

END


Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
CNS · 3211 Fourth St NE · Washington DC 20017 · 202.541.3250


 FIND A MOVIE

   Looking for a
   movie review?

Movie List


   Click "Movie List"
   button above
   
   OR
   
   Enter a keyword
   from the movie
   title in the box
   below and click
   the "Search"
   button.