Although he often excels in various supporting roles, John Hawkes was given his due at Sundance earlier this year with the drama The Sessions (then titled The Surrogate). Following a polio-stricken patient searching for a sexual breakthrough (courtesy of Helen Hunt), Fox Searchlight quickly snatched up Ben Lewin‘s heartwarming true story and are finally putting it into theaters this week.
To go along with the occasion, we have rounded up five films that would make a perfect watch before heading into theaters. Note that we considered including Catherine Scott‘s Scarlett Road, which tells a nearly identical story in documentary form (SXSW review here), but lack of distribution in the US will make it difficult for you to find. Check out our rundown of the five recommended films below.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel, 2007)
While The Sessions tugs on the heart, Julian Schnabel’s masterpiece deals with similair themes to great effect, but adds a stunning visual depth. Following a man whose only route of communication is the movement of his left eye, few other films can literally place you in the shoes of this struggle, thanks in part to Janusz Kaminski‘s arresting cinematography. – Jordan R.
Me and You and Everyone You Know (Miranda July, 2005)
While this independent drama doesn’t feature any sort of debilitating disease, Miranda July‘s debut film does serve as a major break-out for star John Hawkes. Although he previously had a healthy career in television and film, Me and You and Everyone You Know showed us a different side of the actor, namely that of a lead actor able to anchor films on his own. Never is that ability more on display than in The Sessions. – Jordan R.
My Left Foot (Jim Sheridan, 1989)
Featuring the performance that made Daniel Day-Lewis a household name, Jim Sheridan‘s biopic of Christy Brown, an artist with cerebral palsy who was forced to learn to write with his left foot, has served as the blueprint for how to make an honest, heartfelt picture concerning the challenges of disability. - Dan M.
The Sea Inside (Alejandro Amenábar, 2004)
Before he terrorized James Bond, Javier Bardem helped lead a certain Spanish drama to Oscar glory. Opening with a meditation, Alejandro Amenabar‘s compassionate true tale follows Ramon Sampedro (Bardem) who fought, bedside for 30 years for the right to end his life. Amenabar is excellent at internalizing the struggle: a feat for any story about terminal illness. The film is a visual triumph, itself a meditation on escape from the confines of one’s body. – John F.
Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist (Kirby Dick, 1997)
The subject of sex surrogates is often treated with compassion, but Bob Flanagan wants none of that. Not for the close-minded or faint of heart, Kirby Dick’s groundbreaking documentary follows the artist, his practice, inspirations and relationships. Flanagan defying the odds, engages in S & M practices including ritualistic bleeding, breathing control, piercing and hanging as a means of controlling a terminally ill body, with the assistance of his partner (and slave master) Sheree Rose. Dick’s camera doesn’t shy away from the gory details in this riveting portrait of Flanagan, who died during filming at age 43. – John F.
The Sessions opens in limited release Friday, October 19th.
What films would you recommend checking out before seeing The Sessions?
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