It’s 1893. Science in Paris is as male-dominated as it will ever be. But Polish immigrant Maria Salomea Skłodowska (brought back from the dead by Gone Girl’s Rosamund Pike), or Marie Curie, is exactly there to break those norms.
The movie isn’t made for you to pity the scientist but to remind you how she continues to breathe life into us even after her death. It’s just about right that the Golden Globe and Emmy award-winning actress plays the first female Nobel Prize winner, as Rosamund Pike’s performance is just as groundbreaking as Madame Curie’s discovery of radium and polonium.
While you can expect cringe-inducing “I can change the world” dialogue from screenwriter Jack Thorne, the actress still slaps us in the face with her fierce delivery and convincing facial expressions. Like Marie Curie, she’s unapologetic with the amount of power that she wields with her skill, in this case as an actress.
Although the story is set in Paris, the film was shot right in the heart of Hungary. Frequently doubled as European cities, the capital city Budapest was transformed into the late 19th-century Parisian streets.
Some of these locations include Zoltán Utca, the Ethnographic Museum as the lecture hall of Sorbonne University where Marie Curie unveils her discovery of the two new elements and radioactivity, and the beautiful high-ceiling Brody House as Marie and Pierre Curie’s shared apartment.
The cinematography and visual effects paired with the setting is even more gorgeous, the colors of the film feel like a product that would happen when you mix a bunch of different chemical elements together, which may be a nod to the scientist’s relation to the periodic table.
There’s literally a scene where the Curie couple shares their first kiss in front of a blazing fire, which happens when you fuse oxygen, heat, and fuel.
Much like the Stephen Hawking biopic “Theory of Everything”, “Radioactive” shines the spotlight on the scientist’s romantic endeavors, cheating scandals, and childhood trauma whereas their world-changing discoveries are minimally discussed (unless Pierre is there, which is how Marie bonds with him) to make the film palatable for the general audience.
But then the film leaves a bad aftertaste by underestimating the viewers’ intelligence. When we’re already aware of how much she paved the way for females in science and for saving our limbs from amputation, the film would’ve done better without the show-and-tell, which gets annoying over time.
Marjane Sartrapi’s desire to tell a non-linear story by showing us clairvoyant visions every now and then is truly admirable, however, her execution leaves us scratching our heads.
It makes a distinction between the life-saving and deadly repercussions of Marie Curie’s studies, showing a boy being introduced to something called “radiotherapy” to treat his cancer, or the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. This is what makes her Radioactive.