Victoria Film Festival: Curie biopic inspiring tale of tenacity

Times Colonist movie writer Michael D. Reid is covering the Victoria Film Festival, which ends today. Ratings are out of five stars. Go to timescolonist.com/entertainment/film-festival for updates.

 

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Marie Curie: The Courage of Knowledge
Where: Vic Theatre
When: Today, 6:30 p.m.
Rating: Three stars

 

With all that legendary Polish physicist and chemist Marie Curie accomplished, including becoming the only person to win the Nobel Prize twice, in 1903 and 1911, for her pioneering work on radioactivity, it’s no wonder it took so long to compress her story into a biographical film, the first theatrical release since Greer Garson played her in 1943.

Director Marie Noelle’s approach, and it’s a wise one, is to focus artfully on Curie’s private life, particularly her romantic passion, fearlessness and perseverance while struggling for acceptance in a male-dominated academic community in turn-of-the-century Paris.

Polish actor Karolina Gruszka persuasively embodies the stoic, bike-riding scientist and women’s rights champion who continued her research on radium, despite the tragic death of Pierre, her beloved husband and research partner. This beautifully crafted portrait of the widowed visionary, who also became the first female professor at Sorbonne, despite resistance from the Parisian patriarchs, and who aroused controversy by having a scandalous affair with Paul Langevin, her married colleague, is adorned with Noelle’s impressionistic and inventive imagery, much bathed in blue to reflect the colour in her test tubes.

While the drama could have been more engrossing and substantive, the evocative period detail greatly enhances Noelle’s selective and intimate portrait of a loving wife, mother and workaholic. Despite its shortcomings, it becomes an inspiring tale of tenacity and female empowerment.

 

After Love
Where:
SilverCity
When: Today, 1 p.m.
Rating: Three stars

 

Heartbreak sucks, but it happens in relationships with endings we never saw coming. It’s also at the core of Belgian filmmaker Joachim Lafosse’s wrenching anatomy of a relationship on its last legs. An intimate variation on films from Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage to Kramer vs. Kramer, this moving domestic drama effectively captures the complexity of a dying relationship.

Lafosse’s slow-burn snapshot of a marital breakdown is highlighted by a powerfully affecting performance by Berenice Bejo, the Argentinian actor best known for her silently astonishing work as a 1930s Hollywood star in The Artist. Bejo is captivating as a woman from a monied family trying to end her relationship with her needy partner of 15 years, an unemployed architect and father of their twin girls. That he doesn’t appear ready to move on or out of their home without signficant conditions makes the breakup particularly challenging.

Despite some plot developments that stretch credulity, Lafosse authentically captures this very human drama, one that is complicated further by changing social allegiances prompted by a breakup that is never as simple as at least one of its players would hope for.

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