ByTowne ByTowne Cinema
325 Rideau St. Ottawa K1N 5Y4
Info Line: (613) 789-FILM
He created an invention that turned on half the world.
Our story begins in London in the 1880s, the pinnacle of Victorian prudishness. Though they don’t yet know it, the city’s tightly corseted women are about to start picking up some good vibrations.
Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) is a brilliant young doctor; he takes modern science as seriously as he does his solemn Hippocratic Oath. Unfortunately, his rigour goes unappreciated by most of his peers. They dismiss Dr. Granville’s enthusiasm for what they deem fadish new ideas – ideas such as his ‘germ theory.’ And so our hapless protagonist finds himself bounced from employer to employer.
Mortimer is nearly ready to give up on medicine altogether when he meets Dr. Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce), London’s ‘foremost specialist in women’s medicine.’ That lofty title means that Dalrymple is an expert in ‘hysteria,’ a malaise diagnosed so liberally that Dalrymple hypothesizes at least half the city’s women are sufferers. To ease these patients’ stress, he has developed a form of therapy that involves the careful manual stimulation of a certain female body part. In this period of sexual repression, it never occurs to Dalrymple that these housewives are experiencing something more basic and natural than a mysterious epidemic of insanity: horniness.
Hysteria tells the true story of how, aided by a goofy pal with a fascination for gadgets and electricity (Rupert Everett), young Granville came to invent the first vibrator. Key to this was his association with Dalrymple’s very different daughters: the well-spoken Emily (Felicity Jones) and the outspoken Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal). The result inadvertently contributed to women’s sexual independence and the coming women’s movement. (In depicting Mortimer’s growing partnership with Charlotte, who runs a settlement home, the film also dismantles some Victorian prejudices regarding class.)
Shot in a London gorgeously dressed in nineteenth-century garb, Hysteria is a witty and sweet comedy. Featuring swift direction from Tanya Wexler and pithy performances from its cast – all of whom work wonders with Stephen Dyer and Jonah Lisa Dyer’s clever script – it is, as it should be, a pleasure.
– Toronto International Film Festival
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