The invention of the vibrator is an unlikely subject for a romantic comedy and one for which the potential for getting it wrong is high.
But Hysteria gets it right, treating the subject without smut and with subtlety, humour and a sub-plot about social reform and women’s rights.
The film is set in London towards the end of the 18th century. It opens with young Dr Mortimer Granville losing yet another job when his belief in germs and the need for cleanliness conflicts with his superior’s conviction the old ways – including bleeding with leeches – are better.
He finds a new job with Dr Robert Dalrymple a specialist in women’s medicine, in particular the treatment of hysteria, an all encompassing term for a wide variety of physical, mental and emotional complaints. There he meets Dalrymple’s daughters, the gentle and biddable Emily and the feisty Charlotte.
Meanwhile his friend and benefactor Edmund St. John Smythe is embracing the new development of electricity and toying with some inventions.
If you want a couple of hours of escapism with lots of laughs I can recommend Hysteria which is based on a true story.
Don’t rush off when the credits roll, you’ll learn something if you stay to watch to the end.