This quietly powerful, low-budget British drama about a grown-up son dealing with his ageing, dysfunctional mum and dad is given added poignancy by being filmed in the Cumbrian home of the filmmaker’s late parents – this is clearly a story driven by personal experience and sensitive reflection.
Director and co-writer Tom Browne gives us Leonard (Richard Johnson) and Mariah (Gemma Jones; both actors are very good), a shabby but faintly well-to-do couple who live in a dilapidated home full of hoarded clutter and mice. Leonard is an unendearing tyrant, but while his tongue is sharp, his body is failing; Mariah is weary and submits to her husband’s dictatorial behaviour, like someone who has done so for decades. We meet this couple over a short period of time when their son Daniel (Daniel Cerqueira) arrives from London to help them, at their request. But Daniel struggles to deal with his parents, with their eccentric relationship and with hurtful memories of their past together as a family.
There are some very strong scenes, including a conversation between Daniel and his mother about their conflicting memories of his childhood and a chat between Daniel and his French teacher back in London, during which he breaks down in tears. ‘Radiator’ can feel a bit unremarkable at times: some of the acting is awkward and it takes some time for its themes to emerge. But it’s a moving story, made with compassion.