It’s based on a true story about a poet and journalist by the name of Mark O’Brien. If I tell you that O’Brien, in the film and real life, was dependent on an iron lung because he contracted polio as a boy and was left paralysed from the neck down, you might think for a moment: ‘Oh, please, I don’t need to see this.’
But you do need to see this film. And what’s more, you need to see it more than once. Hawkes’s portrayal of O’Brien brims with humour and intelligence. It’s a towering performance that captures a man’s life with empathy and honesty.
I haven’t even reached the bit where O’Brien, a staunch Roman Catholic, decides that aged 36 he’s tired of being a virgin, so he seeks the blessing of his priest (a lively turn from William H. Macy) to hire a willing volunteer who will initiate him in the joys of the flesh.
Helen Hunt plays Cheryl Cohen Greene who did, indeed, teach O’Brien how to achieve satisfaction. Hunt’s had disappointing roles in the past, but she makes the most of this one.
Hawkes dominates the film. He was nominated a couple of years back for best supporting actor in Winter’s Bone. He surely deserves Oscar and Bafta nominations for a performance that teaches us all to live life to the full.
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