“Radium Girls” made me feel things, just not the right things.

It’s hard being a woman in STEM, but at least you can watch some movies about ladies who have, in the words of Pitbull, been there and done that. That’s the general sentiment, anyway, behind the Barnard College Media Center’s year round Feminist Film Series, which is focusing on films about, you guessed it, women in STEM as part of Barnard’s “Year of Science.” 

The first iteration in this series occurred on September 30th at Altschul Hall with the 2018 film “Radium Girls,” directed by Lydia Dean Plicher and Ginny Mohler and starring Joey King. Film showings will occur monthly, the next one set for October 21 of the 2017 film “Bombshell, the Hedy Lamar Story.”

As far as the first showing of “Radium Girls” goes, however, it was a bit of a mixed bag of an experience. I walked in a couple minutes late after a brutal struggle with my key card and the Altschul Door, to find a dark theater occupied by about three people. By the end of the film it was down to just me and the woman running the screening. 

This can probably be attributed to the fact that the areas in which “Radium Girls” delivers cinematically and where it flops cinematically do not make for a very palatable viewing experience. It is an indie film so it didn’t have the same resources at its disposal that most major Hollywood productions do; however, this only accounts for lapses in the technical elements of the film, which by and large, were some of its strongest aspects. The costumes and sets were beautiful, and the makeup artist’s portrayal of radium poisoning was a visceral experience that captured the suffering of the Radium Girls very well. 

The script, though, was not able to pack the same punch. The characters were inconsistent and the dialogue was trite and awkward. The acting wasn’t particularly exceptional either, at least not enough to make up for a bad script. 

Yet, the film did succeed in eliciting an intense emotional reaction; it did make me want to rage against radium and all the injustices suffered by women throughout history. I actually started researching activist groups on campus right when the screening ended. Moreover the film had one excellent line when Joey King’s character said, “Our bones will glow forever you know.” Straight up poetry. I don’t know, maybe it was worth it.

Perhaps the next iteration in the Feminist Film Series will be less of a harrowing experience, you will have to go to find out.  

Radium Girls via Barnard event page