This narrative debut by the directors Lydia Dean Pilcher and Ginny Mohler tells the true story of the factory girls who suffered from misleading information about radium.
By Kristen Yoonsoo Kim
In the 1920s, when radium was advertised as a luminous substance with health benefits, two teenage sisters make ends meet working at New Jersey’s American Radium Factory. Bessie (Joey King) wants to be a Hollywood star, while Jo (Abby Quinn) aspires to become an archaeologist, but for now, they’re on a factory line where girls paint the tiny radioactive faces of glow-in-the-dark watches, repeatedly licking their brushes to a point.
Their dreams quickly shatter when Jo develops concerning symptoms — including losing a tooth — and the sisters learn about a group that believes radium is toxic and exposure can be fatal. This realization coincides with Bessie’s budding romance with a Communist and her own radicalization, as she becomes aware of capitalist greed trumping employees’ safety.
A worthy entry in the category of workers’ rights movies, “Radium Girls,” like “Silkwood,” is based on actual events. In it, the directors Lydia Dean Pilcher and Ginny Mohler reveal a little-known part of history with a loudly beating feminist heart and a narrative grounded in reality.
Read more at ‘Radium Girls’ Review: When Work Takes a Toxic Turn
Watch the film at Radium Girls