TIFF Day 4 – The Sessions

Read all our TIFF 2012 coverage here.

The diving bell and the 40-year-old virgin – ★★★½

Director: Ben Lewin  //  Country: USA  //  Year: 2012  //  Language: English  //  Runtime: 95 minutes  //  Rating:14A  //  Principal Cast: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy  //  Screenplay: Ben Lewin

The Sessions (previously known as The Surrogate, but changed due to similarities with the Bruce Willis action film from a few years ago) is based on the real-life story of polio-sufferer Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes), a devout Catholic who goes on a quest to lose his virginity. The film is based on a newspaper article that O’Brien, a poet and writer, had published – “On Seeing a Sex Surrogate“.

O’Brien has full body sensations but is unable to move his body below the neck, meaning getting the ride is proving difficult. He seeks the counsel of a Berkeley hippie priest played by William H. Macy and decides to enlist the help of Cheryl, a sex surrogate (a therapist who works with a patient by initiating a sexual relationship) played by Helen Hunt.

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TIFF 2012 – A look ahead

Read all our TIFF 2012 coverage here.

| o | – It’s TIFF 2012 time!

 

I finished up at my job at the tail end of July and we all (@dunnez, @oheag2 and previously @parallellevision) moved out of our lovely old house on Toronto’s Davenport Road. Since then I have spent time faffing about with my family, camping in Canada’s wondrous Algonquin Park and travelling around the eastern side of the US. Usually you do all those things and then go back to your homeland, but since Christmas when I formulated this plan I knew I had to base my exit strategy from Toronto around one thing – TIFF.

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Martha Marcy May Marlene

Modern-day Manson - ★★★★★

Sean Durkin’s award winning (Best Director at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival) directorial debut lands on Irish screens with quite a bit of hype to live up to. Rest assured it doesn’t disappoint.

Elizabeth Olsen, sister to Mary and Ashley Olsen and clearly the most talented of the bunch, stars as Martha a distraught and understandably unhinged women who returns to her sister (Sarah Paulson) after an absence of two years. What happened during those two years is the basis of the film and is skillfully recounted in a series of flashbacks while Martha tries to readjust to normal daily life in the lake house of her married sister.

The film unfolds slowly, taking its time to reveal the full picture of just what horrors and brain-washing Martha underwent as part of a seemingly harmless group of self sufficient farmers. The pace is excellently executed as you feel so unsettled, desperately craving to know what happened but ultimately terrified in finding out the next act of this unrelenting modern day horror story. The film is not a horror in the sense of gore or extremes, although there are two quite uncomfortable scenes to watch, but more so in its pacing, incredibly unsettling music by Daniel Bensi and co. and performances that imply the Devil himself has just appeared on screen.

| o | - M. M. M. M.

The Devil in question is John Hawkes, he plays Patrick the alpha male of this band of waifs and miscreants. He gives a master class in all the elements necessary to manipulate and condition the minds of those who have fallen on hard times and find themselves lost and abandoned. Hawkes bares an uncanny resemblance to Charles Manson and expertly delivers the nonsensical philosophical drivel that Manson and his ilk spouted. With his role in Winter’s Bone a few years ago and now this, Hawkes is fast becoming the indie movie President-elect.

Elizabeth Olsen’s performance is outstanding, she must encapsulate so many different characters into the one role and does so with ease. Meaning you don’t question her for a second while she gives such credence to the raft of emotions one must feel having been through and survived the ordeal of a cult. The film also tries to question and examine what it is that compels people to return to those we know to be no good. Her relationship with her sister represents our relationship with Martha, like Lucy we are trying to come to terms and deal with Martha’s experiences and we understand the frustrations that she and her husband feel as they try to help her back to some sense or normality.

It’s not often that a film has my stomach in knots, makes me want to attack the screen when a character appears or leaves me so frustrated and anxious I can barely look but am so compelled I daren’t blink for fear of missing something. A must see masterpiece.

USA  /   Sean Durkin  /   Sean Durkin  /  Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson, John Hawkes, Brady Corbet, Hugh Dancy  /  102min    Drama, Thriller  /  Release: 21 October 2011 (US), 28 October 2011 (Canada), 3 February 2012 (UK/Irl)

Sun. Dance. [10 to look forward to from the 2012 Sundance Film Festival]

/ See what we did there? It's a stock image of girl DANCING in front of the SUN. Yeah? /

Every year around this time I take a cheeky look at flights to Salt Lake City, Utah.

One of these years I’m actually going to the Sundance Film Festival and try pack in ten days of snow, drinking and independent cinema. But sadly work, money and life commitments mean it won’t be in 2012.

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