June 2, 2012


A movie with a very interesting and unusual premise, Hysteria turns out to be an enjoyable time at the movies. Set in Victorian London, Hysteria is really the story behind how the vibrator was created. A young doctor trying to establish himself, Mortimer Grandville (Hugh Dancy) is employed by Dr. Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce). His thriving practice focuses on the treatment of “female hysteria” by pelvic massage. Yes this is the amusing part of the film. In the course of the story, Granville develops a hand cramp from his practice and stumbles upon a curious device that would make his job easier. But this premise only provides the backdrop of the film. As juxtaposition to that premise, Grandville also meets the Dalrymple sisters. Emily (Felicity Jones) who is the quintessential Victorian lady content with following her father’s plans for her. Grandville is immediately smitten. The other sister, Charlotte Dalrymple (Maggie Gyllenhaal), is a bit more feisty and an independent woman who’s ahead of her time. Charlotte chose to work in a shelter as a teacher and to provide food for the less privileged. At its heart, the film is a love story between these characters.

I have always loved a good British period film but what is most enjoyable about this is the writing. The dialogue is deliciously funny and smart particularly the banter between Grandville and Charlotte. Scriptwriters Stephen Dyer and Jonah Lisa Dyer are also adept in situational comedy (especially during the medical consultation scenes) that create a hilarious setting for the characters so much so that at my viewing, the audience would ignite with chuckles throughout the movie.

As for the cast, Hugh Dancy is always charming and has great chemistry with Maggie Gyllenhaal. Ms. Gyllenhaal is utterly convincing as the feisty and passionate Charlotte. She also has a flawless British accent complete with inflections! And it seemed so natural for her. I’ve had previous experience seeing a film with an American cast as a British character in the movie Becoming Jane where the lead would weave in and out of the British accent and it was distracting. Not the case with Ms. Gyllenhaal and I am very impressed!

Hysteria is in limited release at art cinemas right now so if there’s one around you, go and check it out!


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