REVIEW: How the "Radioactive" Movie Life of Marie Curie Won Me Over

Radioactive is a new movie directed by Persepolis' creator Marjane Satrapi, based on the comic by Lauren RednissTelling the life story of the discoverer of radioactivity, Marie Curie, it stars Rosamund Pike as Maria Skłodowska-Curie and premiered as the Closing Night Gala at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. It is scheduled to be generally released worldwide on April 24th, but the UK will get it in on March 20th.

And last night I got to see a preview. The original comic was the result of original research including interviews with her family, into Curie's life, and her relationship with Pierre Curie that had previously never been unearthed, including her relationship with other scientists, her husband's fascination with the supernatural, her work in the First World War and the scandal that dominated Parisien press in her later life. But the comic also sees the future implication of her work intrude into the narrative of the time, from the mushroom clouds in the Nevada desert through Three Mile Island and the advance in radiation therapy and nuclear power today.

And it is these aspects that the movie grasps with both hands, and gleeful abandon. And it is almost the movie's doom. From the get-go, the movie seems far too obvious, too on the nose. Every garret window in Paris has a view of the Eiffel Tower. Everyone says how they feel, bluntly, delivering exposition with every breath. Now it is a beautiful movie, with an intricate portrayal of early twentieth-century Paris, but the colour scheme, the weather, mirrors the mood and tone of the film so much that feels like parody, all is gloom until she gets married, then all is light and bright. The jump from domestic bliss in Paris to the mock-up fifties homes set up in the Nevada desert feels like I have being repeatedly hit on the head by a very pretty hammer. You know when movie critics criticise movies for 'comic book' storytelling, with very little understanding of what that is? Well, this movie will totally be criticised for that.

But something happens about halfway, after the death of Pierre Curie, which got a notable wince from the audience I saw it with. Either the film changes or I do… and I am suddenly all in. The jumps to the future feel far more integrated and natural, Marie's life has more drive, even as it heads to doom, and her appearances on the battlefield, and her aversion to hospitals even in the worst circumstances, are utterly convincing. My eyeballs, no longer rolling, are fixed ahead and misting over. Maybe I too was affected by the glow of the radium, but I was in, and leaving my critic-cynic behind. If this is a movie about the power of scientific argument – and the scientific explanations are some of the movie's highlights – then it takes the ridiculous, explains why I have got everything wrong so far and then convince me of the truth that this a much better film than I had any right to see. So, yes, I want to see it again, right now.

Radioactive is scheduled to be generally released in the UK on March 20th and worldwide from April 24th.

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From the 1870s through to modern day, RADIOACTIVE is a journey through Marie Curie's (Rosamund Pike) enduring legacies – her passionate partnerships, scientific breakthroughs, and the consequences that follow. In late 19th century Paris, Marie met fellow scientist Pierre Curie (Sam Riley). The pair went on to marry, raised two daughters and changed the face of science forever by their discovery of radioactivity. In 1903, the pair jointly won the Nobel Prize in physics for their discovery, making Marie the first* woman to win the esteemed prize. After the death of her beloved Pierre, Marie's commitment to science remained unwavering and her work went on to win her a second Nobel Prize, taking with it the responsibility for discoveries which changed the world. This is a bold, visionary depiction of a legacy of an extraordinary life, the transformative effects and ensuing fallout of the Curie's work and an exploration of how this impacted the defining moments of the 20th Century.

The movie stars Rosamund Pike as Marie Curie, Sam Riley as Pierre Curie, Anya Taylor-Joy as Irene Curie, Ariella Glaser as Young Irene Curie, Indica Watson as six-year-old Irene Curie, Cara Bossom as Ève Curie, Aneurin Barnard as Paul Langevin, Simon Russell Beale as Gabriel Lippmann, Tim Woodward as Alexandre Millerand, Jonathan Aris as Hetreed, Mirjam Novak as Nurse Francoise, Michael Gould as Judge Clark. It is adapted from Lauren Redniss' graphic novel Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout, published by It Books, in December 2010. The screenplay was written by His Dark Materials' Jack Thorne. Have a trailer…

About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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