Radioactive (film)

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Theatrical release poster
with the original release date
Directed byMarjane Satrapi
Screenplay byJack Thorne
Based onRadioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout
by Lauren Redniss
Produced by
CinematographyAnthony Dod Mantle
Edited byStéphane Roche
Music by
  • Evgueni Galperine
  • Sacha Galperine
Distributed byStudioCanal
Release dates
  • 14 September 2019 (2019-09-14) (TIFF)
  • 15 June 2020 (2020-06-15) (United Kingdom)
Running time
109 minutes[1][2]
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$3.5 million[1]

Radioactive is a 2019 British biographical drama film directed by Marjane Satrapi, written by Jack Thorne, and starring Rosamund Pike as Marie Curie. The film is based on the 2010 graphic novel Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout by the American artist Lauren Redniss.[3]

The film premiered as the Closing Night Gala at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. The film was scheduled to be released in cinemas in 2020, but its opening was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was released digitally in the United Kingdom on 15 June 2020 by StudioCanal and began streaming on Amazon Prime Video in the United States on 24 July 2020.


In 1934, Marie Curie collapses in her laboratory in Paris. As she is rushed to the hospital, she remembers her life. In 1893 she was frequently rejected for funding due to her attitude, which she had in common with Pierre Curie. This joint attitude issue with the leading academic authorities led her to share a laboratory with Pierre Curie. After Marie discovered polonium and radium, the two fell in love, were married, and had two children. Soon, Marie announces the discovery of radioactivity, revolutionizing physics and chemistry. Radium is soon used in a series of commercial products. Pierre takes Marie to a séance where radium is used to attempt to contact the dead, but Marie disapproves of spiritualism and the idea of an afterlife after the death of her mother in Poland.

Although Pierre rejects the Légion d'honneur for not nominating Marie and insists that the two jointly share their Nobel Prize in Physics, Marie becomes agitated that he accepted the Prize in Stockholm without her. Soon afterwards Pierre becomes increasingly sick with anemia as a result of his research and is trampled to death by a horse. Although she initially dismisses concerns that her elements are toxic, increasing numbers of people die from serious health conditions after exposure to radium. Depressed, she begins an affair with her colleague Paul Langevin. Although she receives Pierre's professorship at the Sorbonne, the French nationalist press reports the details of her affair with Langevin and she is harassed by xenophobic mobs due to her Polish origins. She returns to the house where she attended the seance and tearfully begs her friend, Loie Fuller, who was there to try to use radium to contact Pierre. When she is awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911, she defies the committee's instructions not to travel to Stockholm and is greeted enthusiastically by all the women in attendance.

In 1914, when World War I starts, her daughter Irene convinces her to run an X-ray unit on the Western Front in order to determine whether or not amputation is needed for wounded soldiers. Irene begins dating Frederic Joliot, but Marie disapproves of their relationship because they have been researching induced radioactivity, and warns Irene not to see him or research radioactivity any more. Although she refuses to obey her, they go to the Western Front together to run the X-ray machine.

Scenes of her life are interwoven with scenes depicting the future impact of her discoveries, including external beam radiotherapy at a hospital in Cleveland in 1956, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a nuclear bomb test in Nevada in 1961, and the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. As she dies in 1934, she sees visions of these events before awakening in a hospital room. Pierre arrives and they leave the hospital together. The film concludes by stating that the Curies' mobile unit X-rayed more than a million men during the war "saving countless lives", that their research would be used to create radiotherapy, and that the Joliot-Curies would discover artificial radioactivity (also known as induced radioactivity) in 1935.

The movie ends with a photo showing Marie Curie's attendance at the 1927 Solvay Conference with many other celebrated physicists such as Albert Einstein.




It was announced in February 2017 that Marjane Satrapi would direct a biopic on the life of Marie Curie, with StudioCanal and Working Title Films serving as producers. An "autumn 2017" production start was initially foreseen.[4] In May 2017, during the Cannes Film Festival, Rosamund Pike was cast as Curie.[5]


In February 2018, Amazon Studios acquired the US distribution rights to the film, with filming beginning in the Hungarian cities of Budapest and Esztergom the same week.[6][7] The cast was rounded out by Sam Riley, Anya Taylor-Joy, Aneurin Barnard and Simon Russell Beale a few days later.[8]


Radioactive premiered as the Closing Night Gala at the Toronto International Film Festival on 14 September 2019.[9][10][11] To celebrate International Women's Day, the film's UK premiere took place at the Curzon Mayfair Cinema on 8 March 2020, ahead of its intended 20 March theatrical release,[12] which was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[13] StudioCanal eventually released the film in the United Kingdom through electronic sell-through platforms on 15 June 2020 and through video on demand on 6 July, followed by a DVD release on 27 July.[14] In the United States, where the film was originally set to be released theatrically on 24 April 2020 by Amazon Studios,[15] it was released straight to Amazon Prime Video on 24 July 2020.[16]


Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 63% based on 154 reviews, with an average rating of 6/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Radioactive's flawed script and counterproductive storytelling choices are offset by Rosamund Pike's central performance in a sincere tribute to a brilliant scientific mind."[2] OMetacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 56 out of 100, based on 31 critics, indicating "mixed or average" reviews.[17]

Deborah Young of The Hollywood Reporter praised Pike's performance, the pacing and the treatment of the subject.[18] The Independent gave it two stars and criticised the "on-the-nose writing that sucks the air out of every scene, as characters ceremoniously announce the film's themes and their personal motivations."[19] Charles Bramesco of The Guardian panned the film as "by-the-numbers", criticising the script and direction, and gave it one star out of five.[20] Kate Taylor of The Globe and Mail concluded that "the viewer may decide [Marie would] rather read a comic book."[21]


Although the film is actually based on a 2010 graphic novel, it is marketed as a "biopic" on Marie Curie. Geraldine McGinty of Cornell University severely criticised the film not just for altering many historical events for dramatic effect, but for misrepresenting her character and that of her husband, e.g. by saying that she stayed at home rather than attending the 1905 Nobel ceremony with Pierre, where he belatedly delivered the lecture for their 1903 prize.[22] McGinty said that its misleading analogies, misrepresentation of principal characters, and inappropriate nudity and violence, all make it unsuitable as an educational or biographical source.[22]


  1. ^ a b "Radioactive (2019)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Radioactive". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 10 October 2021.
  3. ^ Kennedy, Margaret (5 February 2019). "Marjane Satrapi's Marie Curie Biopic Starring Rosamund Pike Set For 2020 Release". The Playlist. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  4. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (16 February 2017). "Marjane Satrapi To Helm 'Radioactive' Marie Curie Story For Working Title & Studiocanal". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  5. ^ Hopewell, John; Keslassy, Elsa (16 May 2017). "Rosamund Pike Set for Marie Curie Story 'Radioactive' From Working Title, Studiocanal (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  6. ^ "Varsóvá változott a Víziváros". (in Hungarian). 19 February 2018.
  7. ^ Keslassy, Elsa (19 February 2018). "Amazon Boards Marjane Satrapi's Marie Curie Biopic 'Radioactive' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety.
  8. ^ Roxborough, Scott (22 February 2018). "Berlin: Sam Riley, Anya Taylor-Joy, Aneurin Barnard Join Marie Curie Biopic 'Radioactive'". The Hollywood Reporter.
  9. ^ "World Premiere of Radioactive Is the TIFF 2019 Closing Night Gala Film" (PDF) (Press release). TIFF. 23 July 2019. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  10. ^ "Radioactive". TIFF. Archived from the original on 20 October 2019. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  11. ^ Lang, Brent (23 July 2019). "Toronto Film Festival: 'Joker,' 'Ford v Ferrari,' 'Hustlers' Among Big Premieres". Variety. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  12. ^ "Marie Curie biopic 'RADIOACTIVE' gets a brand new trailer!". The Arts Shelf. 4 February 2020. Retrieved 11 July 2020.
  13. ^ Brew, Simon (19 May 2020). "Radioactive heads to digital download next month". Film Stories. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  14. ^ "Radioactive – Press Assets". StudioCanal UK. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  15. ^ Rosser, Michael (9 March 2020). "'Radioactive' director Marjane Satrapi reveals why she chooses not to work with US producers". Screen Daily. Archived from the original on 11 July 2020. Retrieved 11 July 2020.
  16. ^ Aquilina, Tyler (10 July 2020). "Rosamund Pike is Radioactive as Marie Curie in new biopic trailer". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 11 July 2020.
  17. ^ "Radioactive". Metacritic. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
  18. ^ Young, Deborah (6 September 2019). "'Radioactive': Film Review | TIFF 2019". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  19. ^ Campbell, Kambole (7 September 2019). "Marie Curie biopic Radioactive gets lost in melodrama – review". The Independent. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  20. ^ Bramesco, Charles (7 September 2019). "Radioactive review – Rosamund Pike flounders in toxic Marie Curie biopic". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  21. ^ Taylor, Kate. "TIFF 2019: Updated – The Globe's latest ratings and reviews of movies screening at the festival". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  22. ^ a b McGinty, Geraldine (27 July 2020). ""Radioactive" fails to tell the true Curie story". Clinical Imaging. 67 (11): 191. doi:10.1016/j.clinimag.2020.07.019. OCLC 8655814983. PMID 32854080.

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