Thursday, July 23, 2020

Movie with Abe: Radioactive

Directed by Marjane Satrapi
Released July 24, 2020

History is filled with names of people whose contributions to society are nearly impossible to measure given the scope of their ideas and inventions and the many later uses developed based on their initial work. It’s not uncommon to learn that those who are revered today were significantly underappreciated in their time, seen as heralds of amoral revolutions or attempting to reach far beyond the station assigned to them based on their gender, race, age, or some other factor that didn’t actually limit their intellectual capacity. There’s much to explore in their stories, including how society’s response to important pioneers shaped the progress of what they discovered and shared with the world.

Marie Sklodowska (Rosamund Pike) has difficulty getting the almost entirely male scientific community in Paris to take her work seriously. When she meets Pierre Curie (Sam Riley), she resists his encouragement and open acceptance of her abilities, but soon realizes that he is a helpful partner, both in science and in love. Their most transformative discovery – radioactivity – leads to a Nobel Prize, though Marie must fight to make sure that she is even acknowledged. Faced with the reality of life without Pierre, Marie struggles to forge ahead with countless obstacles preventing her from making the impact she knows she can.

This film’s title is telling since it doesn’t utilize Marie Curie’s name but instead describes her most significant contribution to society. Throughout the film, there are many flashes to moments in history long after Marie’s death when the effects of her work are seen through the use of the atomic bomb and the Chernobyl disaster, exploring consequences she may never have anticipated as she faces the immediate effects of radiation on her husband’s health. Interspersing those events throughout Marie’s story is effective since it highlights the momentous nature of what she did and the boundless potential she could have had if not for the constant hindrances she faced because she was a woman well ahead of her time who refused to be sidelined.

Pike is best known for her Oscar-nominated performance in “Gone Girl,” and here she delivers a quiet, determined turn as Marie, playing her as dedicated but impatient, uninterested in saying the right thing to get ahead when she doesn’t feel she should have to act a certain way because of her gender. Riley is a strong foil as Pierre, aware of what he must do to be taken seriously and absolutely inspired by Marie’s knowledge. This biopic, from “Persepolis” director Marjane Satrapi, is most involving when it focuses on the game-changing science its protagonist researches rather than the equally worthwhile subject matter of the world’s treatment of her as a woman.


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