In the opening scene, 19-year old servant Augustine (French pop star Soko) has a violent seizure at a high society banquet. The onlookers have no idea what they are seeing or what to do about it, except throw water on her. When Augustine awakens, she cannot open her left eye and so she is shipped off to a posh clinic (that looks more like a chateau than a hospital) in the countryside to be treated by Dr. Charcot (Vincent Lindon) who specializes in female hysteria. We have no idea who decided to send her there, or who is paying for this extravagant and controversial treatment, nor do we ever learn. What we do learn very early on is that director Alice Winocour is uninterested in such details but is very interested in the fact that the doctor's profession is a compromised one as the doctor must continually market his research/work to potential backers, and an essentail part of this marketing involves treating his profession as a form of theatre and staging/inducing hysterical fits (which look like fits of female self-pleasure) in his female patients for his male onlookers curiosity/enjoyment/amusement. This is obviously the part of this history (based on actual characters and true-life events) that Winocour finds facinating but she fails to find much there that offers us much in the way of insight into male or female psychology. Yes, the doctor is interested in Augustine not just because she suffers from a peculiar form of female hysteria but because she is an attractive sufferer but this will not surprise anyone (living then or now). Yes, there is sexual tension between doctor and patient but this too will not surprise anyone. In fact, nothing about this story is surprising or unexpected. And that is a problem. Director Winocour also casts Chiara Mastroianni (daughter of Marcello and Catherine Deneuve) as the doctor's wife, but her main task is just to throw disapproving/suspicious glances at her husband at dinner parties when she hears him or others discuss his unusual methods and his attractive patient or when she reads the journals and papers that ritually criticize/ridicule this form of theatre that the doctor parades as science. This too will strike viewers as an all-too-predictable and unsurprising cinematic trope. The doctor's profession and professional status is of course compromised/complicated by the sexual attraction that he feels for his patient, but this sexual attraction/tension (that Augustine may feel for him as well) is never really explored or analyzed and is only partially (and awkwardly) resolved by films end and most viewers will walk away from this scratching their heads and asking themselves "what was that all about?" This is Alice Winocour's first feature film and she does a commendable job at recreating late-19th century Paris but she seems more interested in exploiting this salacious material than in really digging very deeply into the psychologies or sexualities of either Augustine or Dr. Charcot and that is going to leave many viewers feeling dissatisfied with this rather cursory period/character sketch. I suppose you could argue that Winocour leaves her characters undefined/undeveloped because they do not know themselves and their own motives and I think that is partially true, but a director still needs to give viewers enough information to make heads or tails of what they see and I don't think the director ever gives us enough to work with or think about. What is clear is that Augustine's strange paralysis is meant to serve as an obvious metaphor for the paralysis women feel in the male-dominated social world of Belle Epoque Paris and thats obvious enough (so obvious that Winocour finds ways to make its obviousness almost laughable), what is less clear is what specific (intentional/unintentional) chain of events led to Augustine's paralysis and eventual cure. Other than this sort of generalized sense of helplessness in male dominated Paris, we never learn anything specific about Augustine's past, present or future. She is a cipher throughout. If anything, the final few scenes only complicate an already under-defined character even more. Even though French pop star Soko as Augustine is always intriguing to watch, we are never allowed any privileged glimpse into Augustine's world which might help clarify anything, instead she remains as much of a mystery and as far away from us as she is from the doctor who focuses on her unusual physical symptoms and rarely asks her any personal questions (the version of psychology we are used to) that might allow us insight into the actual cause of her condition. Again, you could say that director Winocour is purposefully leaving things undefined and purposefully refusing to cater to (or import) 20th-century notions of female psychology (and storytelling) into her 19th-century film/tale, but the effect of this is that we never get to know her main character nor her equally mysterious doctor who supposedly learnt so much about his profession/female hysteria from this one patient. As a result, most viewers will leave the film feeling a bit confused/undernourished by these incomplete characters and this under-developed/imagined sketch of a story.