Director Tanya Wexler and screenwriters Stephen and Jonah Lisa Dyer are so determined to hammer modern social values onto their 19th century story that they create a movie of cardboard extremities.
Dancy’s Mortimer is a modern man of science, continually losing jobs as he preaches such concepts as hand-washing to kill germs to bosses who still think leeches and a good blood-letting are all it takes to cure patients.
[...] he lands a cushy position as assistant to Dr. Robert Dalrymple (Price), who specializes in manipulating a woman’s uterus to produce “paroxysms” — the release of nervous tension to treat a catch-all disorder known as hysteria that includes such symptoms as depression, anxiety, contentiousness and just about anything else deemed unbecoming in females.
Mortimer is immediately attracted to Dalrymple’s demure and prudish daughter Emily (Jones) and shocked at the behavior of his other daughter, Charlotte (Gyllenhaal), a suffragette who campaigns for women’s rights and runs a center to help feed and educate the poor.
Director Wexler, who previously made the low-budget films “Finding North” and “Ball in the House,” re-creates the costumes and trappings of the era nicely, but she stuffs the corsets and carriages with either Victorian stick figures or thoroughly modern people out of step with the story.