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Film Review: ‘Radium Girls’ Illuminates a Scandal in Women’s History

Courtesy of Juno Films

History has a very long, very dark chapter when it comes to suppressing women’s rights. In the 1920’s, some strides were taken to correct these injustices, allowing some women the right to work and vote. This decade was important in the fight for women’s rights, but was by no means perfect. Lydia Dean Pilcher and Ginny Mohler’s new film Radium Girls illustrates just a small handful of the issues women encountered during this period of time.

Set in New Jersey in the 1920’s, the film follows Bessie, played by The Act’s Joey King, and her sister Josephine, played by Landline’s Abby Quinn. Both women, along with others, work at American Radium painting watch faces with the element when they all uncover the horrifying truth that their work has been poisoning them. Radium Girls follows their journey as they fight for the truth and tackle a controversy that affects each of their lives.

The women in the movie face a myriad of health issues at the hands of their career as well as depressing women’s rights issues. The film successfully and craftily highlights how doctors had let women down during this period of time when it came to their health concerns. Not only does the movie depict women being dismissed when voicing their worries, doctors are also shown giving false diagnoses to cover up scandals that were deemed more important. These accurate aspects not only disgust, but also draw in viewers and keep them invested in the picture throughout.

Juno Films

Viewers may expect Emmy nominee Joey King to be the star of the film, but some of the most impressive acting is from Abby Quinn in her supporting role. Quinn delivers a performance that is haunting and heartfelt. Onlookers will be able to resonate with Quinn’s character and her struggles deeply throughout the film’s runtime.

King also delivers a memorable performance, but at times struggles to emanate the same array of emotions she has previously in works such as The Act. A stronger acting display from King would have elevated the film that much more. However, the actress does successfully display a loving relationship between two sisters, and her character’s concern and passion is palpable at times.

The story arc is fluid and structured very well, thanks to writers Ginny Mohler and Brittany Shaw. There aren’t many moments that seem out of place, dialogue from each and every character is powerful, and the storyline is clear and concise. This movie is the first feature film for both Mohler and Shaw as writers. The duo has set the stage for an impressive and illustrious career with Radium Girls.

The motion picture is directed by Ginny Mohler and Lydia Dean Pilcher. Pilcher has been a producer on a variety of works, including The Darjeeling Limited and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, but this film is one of only three films she has directed. The two collaborate beautifully together on this movie, and their directorial styles blur into one gorgeous and meaningful spectacle. There are shots that will stick with audiences after the movie is over, mainly those displaying the sisters in a gorgeous outdoor landscape.

Juno Films

Remaining faithful to the real-life women who suffered through the scandal, facts are given about the true history behind Radium Girls post-credits. While shocking, these facts are also a true testament to how important this disgrace was for workers as well as women in history. 

Radium Girls will screen in select theaters and virtual cinemas on October 23rd. If you are looking for an alarming story based on true events, this movie is not one to be missed. 

SCORE: ★★★

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Written by Kendall Tinston

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