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Marie Curie is out of her element in <em>Radioactive</em>

(Amazon Studios)


Marie Curie is out of her element in Radioactive

The film has some surprises but is too unstable

“I want to tell you about radium,” Marie Curie, the Sorbonne’s first female professor, informs her class in 1906 in Paris. “A most remarkable element that doesn’t behave as it should.”

The new film Radioactive depicts Curie (Rosamund Pike) in much the same way. Independent, almost anti-social, Curie excelled at science in an era when the laboratory was pretty much a boy’s club. She was the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize, and one of only four people ever to win twice.

The film doesn’t play as you’d expect, either. Besides reviewing Curie’s achievements, Radioactive (rated PG-13 for backside nudity and sensuality) puts some of her unsavory moments under the microscope: She explores spiritualism and has an affair with a married man after her husband and co-Nobelist, Pierre (Sam Riley), dies. 

But the film’s nucleus doesn’t hold together. Numerous forward flashes examining the posthumous fallout—good and bad—of Curie’s discoveries (e.g., twice calling the Hiroshima atomic bombing “criminal”) disrupt pacing. Unstable in focus, Radioactive zips through impor­tant personal moments in her life.

A bright spot is the Curies’ marriage. Pierre respected Marie’s intellect and loved her deeply, winning her over in spite of herself.


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  • Steve Shive
    Posted: Tue, 08/11/2020 07:25 am

    Thanks for this. I have not watched this yet. Might not. But I am not surprised at the focus and politicalization of her life. 

  •  BosLarJazz's picture
    Posted: Tue, 08/11/2020 03:50 pm

    I saw this the other night with my wife and I agree it was a mixed bag. The story telling was actually well done for the most part and Rosamund Pike was excellent in the lead. There was an interesting aspect in that her abrasive nature came from having suffered great loss with the passing of her mother as a young girl and her desire to protect herself from being vulnerable to anyone, and from the fact that she was marginalized early on in her career by the boys club mentality and longed to be taken seriously.

    The interspersing of elements of future outcomes as a result of her discoveries were interesting, but the A bomb segment sort of overshadowed, even momentarily hijacked the story almost to the point of placing some blame on her. I'm sure it was unintentional.

    For all her brilliance, she was not without her faults and she suffered for them. Further, one gets a glimpse of the hard work a scientist put in back then to find something elusive with little in the way of lab assistants, safety protocols, or encouragement. No lucrative grants, patent royalties, or well equipped university labs for these scientists.