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FILM OF THE WEEK A world-changing life scientific

MARIA DUARTE recommends an insightful but flawed biopic on the pioneering scientist Marie Curie

Radioactive (12A)
Directed by Marjane Satrapi

ALTHOUGH everybody knows Marie Curie's name, few can probably tell you much about her. But that could soon end with this insightful drama, directed by Marjane Satrapi, about the extraordinary life and work of one of the most famous women in science.

The Polish-born physicist and chemist was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first person to win it twice and, to date, the only one to earn them in two different sciences.

Adapted from Lauren Redniss’s graphic novel Radioactive, the non-linear narrative shifts back and forth, from Curie’s gripping life and work in the past to her legacy, good and bad, in the future.

The latter is a very distracting device and could have featured as a footnote at the end of the film. Instead, it disrupts a captivating narrative and seems totally out of place, leaving me puzzling over why anyone could think it a good idea.

But Rosamund Pike saves the day with a standout performance as the pioneering and trailblazing Curie, playing her from the ages of 24 to 67 as the film follows her scientific journey of discovery.

In late 19th-century Paris she meets and marries fellow scientist Pierre Curie (Sam Riley), with whom she has two daughters — one of whom went on to win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry — and their life-changing work with radioactivity earns them a joint Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903.

Their discovery of radium and polonium and the consequences it would have still resonate today in the era of nuclear weapons, radiation for medical treatment and nuclear energy.

The drama examines the importance of their work together, which Marie took much further following her husband's death in 1906.

It also points up the sexism that Curie faced and fought fiercely against to win her place at the scientific table, which is immortalised in the 1927 photo of her — the only woman — among 17 Nobel prizewinners, including Albert Einstein, at a historic conference in Brussels.

 

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