Radioactive – Film Review

Director: Marjane Satrapi

Writer: Jack Thorne

Starring: Rosamund Pike, Sam Riley, Aneurin Barnard, Anya Taylor-Joy

Rating: ★★

Radioactive is a deeply flawed biopic of Marie Curie (Rosamund Pike), who discovered radioactivity with her husband, Pierre Curie (Sam Riley). The film covers Marie’s life from meeting Pierre, up until her death in 1934, telling the story of her personal life as well as her scientific discoveries. It’s not a good film, despite a great performance from Rosamund Pike, as it simply doesn’t do a great job at telling Marie Curie’s story.

The science, major discoveries, and relationship with Pierre is all very fast paced, taking up around half the runtime, and doesn’t really slow down enough for you to really get a deep understanding of her discovery and how it happened. The basics are there, but the film is trying to cover too much time and so much feels brushed over. 

One of the stranger things the film does, despite trying to cover almost four decades, is have moments that flashforward in order to show things that happen as a direct result from Curie’s discoveries, from radiotherapy to the nuclear bomb. These segments last way too long and should have really just been a montage at the end instead of breaking up the main narrative.

There’s also way too much time given to the scandalous affair that Marie Curie had with Paul Langevin (Aneurin Barnard) after Pierre dies. It feels like just as much time is given to that event, or maybe even more, than is given to her scientific discoveries. That combined with the flashforwards makes it feel like they couldn’t find an engaging way to tell the interesting parts of her story.

The biggest sin the film commits is the altering of history, especially something that’s supposed to be a biopic. One of the less troubling changes is Marie and Pierre’s meeting, which is turned into a romcom meet-cute. Then there’s the fictional fear of hospitals that Marie is given in order to add some drama at points of the story. Worst of all is the conflict between her and Pierre when he accepts the Nobel prize by himself as Marie stays at home, which just straight up didn’t happen. Neither travelled when they won in 1903, but travelled together in 1905. Things like that are frustrating in biopics, but it’s made worse since it doesn’t add anything to the story.

It’s like the filmmakers are so unsure of the story that they need to make things up to keep it entertaining, which is even more evident by the number of, inexplicit but pointless nude scenes early on. Why?  Is someone really sitting down to watch a biopic of a scientist who would end up disappointed if there’s no nudity within the first twenty minutes.

When Marie and Pierre do explain what their doing to someone at dinner, it’s genuinely interesting and the experiments are shown in a really engaging way. It’s a shame that this wasn’t the main focus of the film. Coming out of the film, where I went in only knowing the basics of Marie Curie’s work, I come out knowing barely anything more. Even some of the more interesting moments of her life, such as the reason she moved to Paris (as women couldn’t study in the University of Warsaw), is left out.

The story of Marie Curie is interesting, but Radioactive fails to capture that. Instead, it focuses on the sensationalism of her personal life rather than the science, alters history way too much, and is simply too long.

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About ashleymanningwriter

Young Adult Fiction writer. Horror and fantasy blended together.
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4 Responses to Radioactive – Film Review

  1. Excellent review. Both the hubster and I enjoyed this movie, but neither one of us know/knew enough about Curie to understand where the writers went astray.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tony Briley says:

    Great review, thank you. I had heard about this and looked forward to what I thought would be an intense movie about discovery. In my mind it would pace and build as one like And the Band Played On. But it seems like it never does that. Thanks for saving me some time, I’ll skip it.

    Liked by 1 person

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