Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Hysteria Movie Poster Image
Movie about sex toy invention isn't all that graphic.
  • R
  • 2012
  • 100 minutes

Parents say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

It's possible to see a message about women's liberation or women's sexuality, but Hysteria's arc is mostly focused on very traditional Hollywood things: men getting ahead in the world, getting rich, and finding romance. That said, most characters do learn that they can choose their own path in life.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Charlotte is a positive role model except for the way she aggressively fights with her wealthy father. She's fully dedicated to helping others and runs a hospital in a poor part of town; she's unable to pay the bills, but is also unwilling to give up. The main character actually seems rather selfish compared to her.


Debt collectors beat up an old woman, and a young woman punches a cop in the face. Viewers see images of a primitive hospital, with leeches, blood, and festering wounds. There's general arguing and a reference to splitting someone's head with an axe.


Hysteria is all about female sexuality, but it's very coy about actually showing any nudity or directly saying anything vulgar. Even so, women -- diagnosed with the vague condition "hysteria" -- visit the doctor to have orgasms, and the male doctors (working under a discreet screen), masturbate and massage them to achieve this. Otherwise, they remain clothed. The dialogue during these scenes is almost exclusively made up of discreet innuendo. Additionally, a former prostitute propositions the hero, but using only innuendo and gestures. The most physical thing shown, aside from a romantic kiss, are two ducks having sex in a pond. During the end credits, there are photos of vibrators throughout history.


Since the movie is set in 1880, language is limited to historical slang/swearing such as "stiff prick," "bugger," and "bloody hell."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A supporting character is said to be a drunk, but he's rarely actually seen drinking. Otherwise, characters drink socially (whisky, rum, champagne, and port), and there's discussion of doctors and the pills they prescribe.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Hysteria is a comedy-romance set in the 1880s that deals with the invention of the vibrator. Although the movie (akin to The Full Monty) manages to coyly avoid actually saying anything vulgar or showing any nudity, it has very strong suggestions of sexuality, as male doctors provide orgasms for female patients in an attempt to treat "hysteria." The doctors touch and massage the women behind a discreet screen, while they remain otherwise clothed. There's a bit of violence (male debt collectors beat up an old lady in one scene), and some social and comical drinking. Even though the movie isn't graphic, teens should be mature enough to understand something about sexuality before viewing.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

Teen, 14 years old Written bylovelife151 October 1, 2012

Ugh bad and stupid

I think that if your old enough (14+) and your parents have had the "talk" with you..than it would be ok.though,this movie wasn't that great. Jus... Continue reading

What's the story?

In 1880s London, young doctor Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) keeps losing jobs because he wants to use modern scientific knowledge -- as opposed to the old, traditional methods. He winds up working for Dr. Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce), who treats "hysteria" in women by providing orgasms. There, Mortimer starts courting the doctor's pretty daughter, Emily (Felicity Jones), but also meets Emily's sister, the fiery Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who spends her time treating the poor and downtrodden for little financial gain. The hysteria business is booming, and as Mortimer's exhausted hand begins to give him trouble, his friend and benefactor (Rupert Everett) comes up with an invention that could change everything.

Is it any good?

Borrowing a tone and approach from The Full Monty, director Tanya Wexler tackles the topic of human sexuality in a coy way that allows her not to show any nudity or say anything vulgar. This approach will make Hysteria appeal to a much wider audience than something more intimate and direct, like Shame, but it also avoids an actual discourse on the topic; it merely suggests that viewers should walk away from the movie feeling good about being more modern and open-minded than the citizens of 1880s were.

HYSTERIA gets most of its humor from the juxtaposition of prudishness and sex, as characters slowly find themselves freed from primitive thinking, and it's easy to laugh along. Though the whole cast is charming, Gyllenhaal's character is the most admirable of the bunch. But she's also the most misplaced, bringing an idea of women's liberation to a time that most certainly wasn't ready for it. In his small supporting role, Everett provides the movie's freest, loosest humor, drolly enjoying his own bad behavior.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Hysteria's sexuality. At one point a character says something about women "taking back their bodies." Is that what happens? What do women/characters actually learn about sexuality here?

  • By acknowledging sexuality in women of all different ages and shapes, does the movie make a positive statement about body type?

  • Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate