Radiator (15)

Directed by Tom Browne
Picturehouse, Liverpool
29th December 2015

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

Amid the 'festive season' when the myth of happy families gathering around the Christmas dinner tables eating dead birds is endlessly perpetuated in the media, this film, shown during that period, showed the bleak reality of what family life is like for a lot of people, me included!

A son, a schoolteacher based in London, is asked to visit his mother, who is at her wit's end in trying to deal with her husband, showing distinct signs of senile dementia, and has lain on the front room sofa for days on end covered in his own shit and piss.

Tom Browne, making his debut as a film director, accurately portrays the falsehood of family relationships, particularly with middle-aged Daniel (Daniel Cerqueira) still nursing grievances, for example, of when his dad, Leonard (Richard Johnson) - sadly, the actor died in June 2015 - threw stones at his head when he was eight-years-old!

The estrangement of Daniel from his parents is perhaps shown by him calling them by their first names, not mum and dad.

He is still treated as a child by him, which makes Daniel's angst even more pronounced.

This is played out in an old and rundown cottage near Penrith. Browne starkly illustrates the contrast between the abject lives of the people within the building compared to the stunning landscapes of Cumbria.

You also hear the tranquil sounds of birdsong outside the cottage, while inside there is forever mental torment taking place.

The mother (Gemma Jones), with a highly impressive acting performance, is a pillar of strength amid the turmoil in her life, having to daily lift Leonard, for instance, to wipe his backside and undertake all the energy-sapping manual chores.

Despite her devotion to him - Daniel pointedly asks her "What do you love about him?" - Leonard shows no appreciation of her, instead he continually harangues and belittles her.

There is very little reference, if any, to the times when the couple were young and in peak health, mentally and physically. The film gives the distinct impression that they are just waiting to die and thus end their misery.

This was the last film I saw on the big screen in 2015, in what has been a rich harvest of viewing. Among the many highlights were Whiplash, Mommy, Salt Of The Earth, Horse Money, By Our Selves, Sky And Ice and Hard To Be God.

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