The Beach House (2020) | SHUDDER
Radioactive came out of nowhere and won me over from the very beginning with the stunning performance by Rosamund Pike as Marie Curie, as well as the fast paced nature of the story. However, after an hour into this 109 minute movie, the story began to crumble.
To say I loved the unique vision of Marianne Satrapi’s previous film, The Voices would be an understatement. Satrapi brings a grim, charcoal color tone to the 1800 setting, a vibrancy that stands out prominently and transports you into the time of the Curie’s discovery. I was fully immersed in the science and the medical transitions that showed you the more intelligent scientific discussions in visual detail (similar to how The Big Short would transition to explain more sophisticated words surrounding the stock market). Unfortunately with such great ambition comes visually lopsided storytelling with many “dream” sequences that shine brightly with their pure arthouse feel, yet when transported to other times to display the use of the Curie’s radium the audience member is completely thrown off by the drastic change of color and appearance making these sudden transitions take you completely out of the film they’ve been building.
Radioactive follows the partnership of Marie Curie and Pierre Curie as they discover radium and polonium. The story expands to display the future usage of their elements and continues to follow the Curies to their close. Scribe Jack Thorne penned the screenplay based on the book by Lauren Redniss. Thorne has had mixed results in the past with duds like The Aeronauts and successes like Wonder. Radioactive leans more toward the Wonder side of things, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have numerous issues with his storytelling. Apart from the distracting transitions to the future after an hour in, we suddenly pick up the pace and jump around constantly to get to the ending quicker – making the last 50 minutes unremarkable.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
From the very beginning I fell in love with the arrogant nature of Rosamund Pike’s portrayal of Marie Curie and her erratic relationship with Sam Riley’s Pierre Curie. Their chemistry was electric and struck me instantaneously. Unaware of how their true story played out, I was shocked by the events that took place during their lives. In fact, I only knew them prior from references made throughout pop culture over the years (ex. The Simpsons). When Pike and Riley shared the screen, the film was a wonderful dynamic of two actors playing amongst one another, and when that came to a close, things slowly started to spiral. None of the other actors had a similar connection to Pike and it makes the film weaker for it. Without our leads, the supporting cast, including a small supporting effort by Anya Taylor-Joy, offer very little to help the story move forward and their performances unfortunately fly under the radar when placed against Pike and Riley.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
"...a delightfully captivating historical journey..."
The visuals of Radioactive are the hardest thing to speak of as individually the visuals are fantastic and capture what the filmmaker clearly wanted portrayed. However, pieced together as they are, they make visually no cohesive sense. There’s a true artistic touch to every dream/nightmare sequence Marie Curie suffers through, and it’s easy to appreciate them on their own, yet intertwined with the main story, the intentions of including them are questionable. During scenes showing the visual description of their scientific conversations the CGI used is prominently artificial. The setting crafted for the film really drew you into the situations taking place and when the film decided to change course suddenly, the different visuals threw a curveball the viewer’s way. The costume design was just as bleak as the purposely grim setting, and it fit wonderfully with the tone of the film.
Radioactive (2020) | PRIME VIDEO
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Composers Evgueni Galperine & Sacha Galperine bring a somber distinction to the film with their score. The two composers have worked prominently together prior to Radioactive, most commonly with arthouse style pictures. The score presented is subtle when it wants to be, taunting the viewer, while at other times intense and distinguished. The tone set by the musical decisions kept me enthralled with the film even when the story started to collapse.
While I did have a few issues with the film overall, Marianne Satrapi's Radioactive is a delightfully captivating historical journey through the romantic and scientific relationships of the Curies.
Now Streaming on