You know her name and what she did – or you should. But Radioactive provides a deeper look into the life and love of famed scientist Marie Curie. Anchored by acting heavyweight Rosamund Pike in yet another role she embodies with magnetic energy (*Googles magnetic energy* Guess we’ll have to wait for the William Gilbert biopic), the film brings to life an historical figure reserved mainly for elementary school textbooks.
Before discovering polonium and radium, strong-minded Maria Skłodowska (Pike) discovered her love for fellow scientist Pierre Curie (Sam Riley). Based on author Lauren Redniss’ “Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout,” director Marjane Satrapi and writer Jack Thorne create a nonlinear narrative reflective of the human mind: glimpses of the past to inform the present. We see their love story and all the highs and lows as they work in their dungeon-like laboratory, fully immersed in their scientific quest.
Dark in both setting and subject matter, Radioactive uses computer-generated imagery to explain all-things chemistry to the average viewer who might not recall what it is, exactly, a glowing green element can do. And for better or worse, it can do so much. While the Curies’ lives are told through flashbacks and flashforwards, so are the effects of radium, an element that can both cure a young cancer patient and create atomic bombs to wipe out cities. It’s heartwarming and heartbreaking, depending on human behavior.
Thankfully, it depicts the frustrating realities of sexism in the late 19th Century – an element (no pun intended) that adds another educational layer to the already densely packed biopic. It should be required viewing as students return to school, physically or virtually.
Obviously, the filmmakers had no way of predicting that their film (originally slated for an April release), would be watched in the midst of a global pandemic. But in that context, Radioactive shows how one person, one thing, one discovery can change the world. It will resonate more than maybe it would have in April, with the world adjusting to its seemingly heavier reality.
In the midst of it all, though, there’s love: hard to find, supremely powerful and utterly complicated, much like radium, itself.
Radioactive is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
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