The origins of particular inventions can be surprising as we peer back into the mists of time. New film Hysteria, which, if we’re to believe the opening credits, “is based on a true story (really)”, shows that some inventions started off their lives with a very different set of purposes. In this case it’s an electrical device originally invented at the turn of the 20th century to help cure women with ‘hysteria’ – a device that we would more instantly recognise today as the vibrator.

Starring Hugh Dancy, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Rupert Everett, Hysteria tells the tale of Dr. Mortimer Granville, a young physician longing to help the needy. Desperate for work, he ends up becoming apprentice to the leading expert in the field of hysteria, a sweeping term which was historically used to cover a wide variety of ailments in women. The most effective treatment for hysteria, this expert tells Dr Granville, is by massage of a lady’s, ahem, most delicate areas. Manually. Which puts such a strain on young Granville, who it turns out is astonishingly gifted at this form of therapy that his thoughts turn to how science could possibly alleviate his burden.

Hysteria is a playful, witty romp that never takes itself too seriously. But beneath its tongue-in-cheek visage, it nevertheless has some pertinent things to say about female sexuality and, refreshingly, doesn’t spend any time judging women for their sexuality either, which we’re all quite fed up with, thank you very much Hollywood. If you love your period piece fluff to come with a humorous social conscience, Hysteria will be bound to tickle your fancy.

Hysteria opens Thursday July 12 in selected cinemas.

We have five double passes to Hysteria to give away. Email with the subject ‘Hysteria’ to enter.