December 2015

Tom Browne’s Radiator is an insightful observation of obligations, commitment, a family struggle and a second childhood. It explores the difficulty of weakness, both mental and physical, and the pain of unwavering pride. Most of all, it investigates the strength of love.

Isolated in a chaotic household in the picturesque Cumbrian countryside, elderly couple Maria (Gemma Jones) and Leonard (Richard Johnson) have developed a daily routine that is more than unusual. Their son Daniel (Daniel Cerqueira) has taken a few days off work to help his doting mother and to sort out his father’s almost unbearable obstinacy – Leonard has rendered himself sofa-ridden and is utterly dependent on his wife to care for him. The father-son tension is palpable as soon as Daniel arrives and he must find a way to ease the antagonism and restore order to the house, but nothing is ever simple.

Browne’s film is darkly comic and touching in all the right ways, partially due to Jones’ portrayal of unwavering, loving compliance to her outrageous and inflexible husband. Cerqueira, also the co-writer of the film, provides a middle ground that attempts to quell the tension, but is more important as a plot device to convey the poignancy of a family struggle.

In an intimate story that focuses on three central characters, who happen to be a family, the film becomes an observation. For example, when Leonard is outraged by the state of the plastic straws that Maria gives him. As humorous as the argument is, it shows the state of a man who is dysfunctionally set in his ways, a woman who, despite this, is dutifully loyal and a son who is repulsed by his father’s behaviour, but obliged by love for his family. With a premise reminiscent of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, this observation of human responses explores what it is to be “stuck” in a very funny, moving, and heartfelt way.

Dominique Perrett - 25th November 2015.


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