In Queue Review – “Radium Girls”

“Why is there so much wrong in the world that no one knows about? “
‘It’s easier to believe stories that make us feel safe.’

Genre: Based-On Biodrama
Release Date: 2018
Where I Watched:  Netflix

Talky talk: Based on the nonfiction book The Radium Girls – – this Netflix film digs into the way radium companies used and neglected their workers. The book is an absolute must-read for anyone who wants to become versed in parts of American history rarely discussed; the film is a lighter touch. Girls a dramatic take, plus I’m thinking that showing exactly what these girls went through as their particular battles with radiation necrosis progressed would be too gruesome, even for streaming.

Girls uses a fictional heroine, Bessie, as a sort of stand-in stand for real-life Radium Girl Grace Fryer, who in 1928 was one of the the first of the Girls to sue U.S. Radium. The film focuses on that trial, though various suits continued all the way to the Supreme Court in 1939. (Radium’s use as a watch paint was finally stopped in the 1970s.)

The Kissing Booth‘s Joey King plays Bessie with an iron backbone and broken heart. Here’s hoping she gets more dramatic roles to sink her teeth into. Susan Heyward plays her BFF Etta, a fellow communist whose way with her camera captures many important moments…and who hints at a broader fight for social justice.

Girls surrounds Bessie with 1920s revolutionaries, mostly communists of all races looking to change their America for the better. As Bessie’s eyes begin to open to the hideous conditions at her plant, Girl’s Flapper Riot Grrl aestheric is comforting, at least to viewers like me who’ve seen change, and believe that more and even better changes are possible if, like these Girls, we come together to make it so. 

Come for: The snippets of real history (though the final end note of the film is incorrect in some instances, as many Radium Girls were re-buried in lead coffins to stifle the radiation leaks.)
Stay for: The riveting story that will piss you off, and break your heart. Grab tissues for tears and to throw at the screen when the baddies act like asshats.

About Denise

Professional nerd. Lover of licorice.
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