Radioactive (2019)

Director: Marjane Satrapi
Writer: Jack Thorne
Based on: Lauren Redniss‘ book Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie
Cast: Rosamund Pike, Sam Riley, Aneurin Barnard, Simon Russell Beale, Sian Brooke, Drew Jacoby, Katherine Parkinson, Corey Johnson, Anya Taylor-Joy
Seen on: 18.8.2020
[Here’s my review of the 2016 Marie Curie movie.]

Content Note: xenomisia

Marie (Rosamund Pike) is completely devoted to her work, but when she loses her spot in the lab, her project is threatened. When Pierre (Sam Riley) offers her a workspace in his own lab, she is hesitant to accept because she doesn’t want to have to depend on him and she certainly doesn’t want anybody interfering with her work. But she doesn’t really have any options, so she does agree. This is the beginning of their collaboration and Marie’s lifelong fight to have herself and her work recognized.

I think I wanted to like Radioactive better than I actually did. It does bring some new perspectives to the story, but not all of the ideas here work as they should.

The FIlm poster showing Marie Curie (Rosamund Pike) with her hands in her waist.

The film obviously wants to portray a great woman as a great woman, outlining the difficulties she had to face as well as her accomplishments. There is a special focus on the latter, and since radioactivity has a lot of negative consequences – atom bombs and nuclear catastrophe – this results in a slighty strange dissonance: Marie’s fight to do her work ultimately leads to devastation, global as well as personal. This framing invites the question of “is it actually worth it?” A question that seems to run counter the feminist intentions of the film.

Nevertheless, with Rosamund Pike, Radioactive won the casting lottery – she is wonderful in the role, no matter at what age she plays Marie, giving her self-confidence and frustrations equal room. Sam Riley’s lighter, more stoic Pierre is a wonderful contrast to Marie’s bold, slightly harsh ambition.

Marie (Rosamund Pike) works.

I also appreciated that the film acknowledges Marie’s Polish roots a lot. Her migration story doesn’t feature that much in other narratives of her life, as far as I can tell, and neither does the xenomisia she faced.

But altogether, Radioactive feels uneven in many ways and doesn’t find its footing throughout. There are very interesting moments and, as I said, Pike is glorious, but I found myself glancing at my watch and feeling slightly bored by the film, unfortunately.

Marie (Rosamund Pike) works as Pierre (Sam Riley) watches.

Summarizing: Probably still worth seeing.

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