Jean-Martin Charcot is hailed as the founder of modern neurology. But, of course, every legendary figure has to begin somewhere. Augustine is a dramatized account of his study of "hysteria" in women and the affair with a patient that came of it.
Augustine is a 19 year old kitchen maid who suffers from inexplicable, violent seizures. She is sent to a hospital after a particular seizure leaves her unable to open her right eye and unable to feel sensations on the entire right side of her body. Dr. Charcot becomes fascinated with Augustine because of the specificity of her illness, and that he is able to trigger seizures in her easily when she is under hypnosis, allowing him a more measured approach to his study. Being in late 19th century Paris, the state of mental medical care is poor, but on the rise thanks to men like Charcot who are actually seeking to treat these illnesses rather than waive them off as being a symptom of female hysteria.
The film captures the period quite well, the look and feel, the atmosphere. And it also does admirably with the relationship between the doctor and patient as it begins to grow and blossom. However, it doesn't do much with the subject matter of the mental illnesses themselves. I wish it had delved a little deeper.
Also, I'm sort of tired of stories where old guys have affairs with young girls. Especially one between a doctor and patient. This aspect of the film left me feeling little sympathy for either of them, and ultimately sort of empty about the whole thing.
Despite my not liking the subject matter much, I did still feel that both actors did a great job with it. They almost got me to care over my objections, which is no small feat.
Is it worth seeing? I wouldn't think so, but then I'm not partial to French cinema to begin with. However, I can easily see how others might enjoy Augustine.