Radium Girls

2018 | Docudrama | 102 minutes | English


Bessie and Jo are teenage sisters who work at the American Radium Factory in Orange, New Jersey. Their job is to paint radium on watch dials so that they glow. The workers are instructed to lick the paintbrushes to produce a finer point. “Lip, dip, paint,” they are coached. Unbeknownst to the workers, radium can be fatal when it enters the body. When Jo becomes ill, the company has her examined by their doctor. His diagnosis is syphilis, despite the fact Jo is a virgin. When Bessie’s older sister, Mary, died and other workers become ill, Bessie contacts Wylie Stephens, head of the Consumer’s League of New Jersey. Hearing Bessie’s information, Wylie suggests that Mary’s body be exhumed and examined. This is done and the report indicates Mary’s bones were contaminated with radium. Bessie is now convinced. She rallies the workers to collectively sue the company. Fortunately, with an able pro-bono lawyer, Bessie and her group not only receive a generous settlement, but achieve a great P.R. victory. With the government subsequently strengthening labor laws, companies will think hard if they knowingly put their workers at health risk.  

Joey King (Bessie Cavallo) / Abby Quinn (Josephine “Jo” Cavallo) / Cara Seymour (Wylie Stephens)
Why Stream This Film?
Forget about the low Rotten Tomatoes score. Radium Girls is the heroic story of a teenager, Bessie Cavallo, who discovers that her employer is knowingly covering up the life-threatening effects of radium, thus putting all the workers at grave risk. With super determination, Bessie convinces the workers to band together and sue the evil company. The event took place in the 20s but it sure holds a haunting relevance today.  
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 76%
  • Metacritic Score: 52
  • Adirondack Film Festival: Winner, Best Film
  • Buffalo International Film Festival: Nominated, Best Narrative Feature
  • Women’s Film Critics Circle Awards: Winner, Best Ensemble in a Film
RADIUM GIRLS fulfills a vital function with its dramatization of an important chapter in America’s history of labor reform. The film is engrossing thanks to the excellent performances by Joey King and Abby Quinn who make us fully care about their characters’ fates.
Frank Scheck

The Hollywood Reporter

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. RADIUM GIRLS becomes a riveting courtroom drama as Bessie presents damning evidence. Her battle is not without  realistic consequences: When a teenage girl confronts corporate cover-ups, even the triumphs come with consequences.
Kristen Yoonsoo Kim

The New York Times



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