This film is based on the true story of Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes), a 36 year old poet who has been paralysed from the neck down since the age of 6 and has never had any sexual experience – ever, and spends most of his life in an iron lung. With the support of his priest (William H. Macy) he decides to see a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt, in a truly committed performance).
It doesn’t sound particularly cheery and to tell the truth, I probably wouldn’t have gone to see it if it hadn’t been for my wife. I thought it was probably some biopic of a rock band I’d never heard of.
So let me tell you that the film was full of humour, hope and love, and is extremely frank with the subject matter. I was captivated for an hour and a half.
I was moved.
Excellently performed by all the cast, especially Helen Hunt, and unobstrusivley directed by Ben Lewin – the last film he did was 18 years ago – ‘Paperback Romance’ – nope I’d not heard of it either – he definitely needs to be making more films. In one scene, my wife almost broke my arm she grabbed it so hard: It’s the middle of the night. Mark is lying in his iron lung. He’s alone, thinking. We’re listening to the sound of the equipment burbling away. The lights go out and the lung stops…
The film’s main source is Mark’s essay ‘On seeing a sex surrogate‘ written in 1990, and a short documentary called ‘Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien’ won an Academy Award in 1997.