The title may be off-putting but the content of Radiator is seldom touched on by the cinema and is worth exploring. In his final role, the 87-year-old Richard Johnson (who died in June of this year) is something of a revelation as Leonard, a frail, self-absorbed tyrant modelled on the director Tom Browne’s own father. Browne, whose feature debut this is, co-wrote the screenplay with the actor Daniel Cerqueira, who plays the part of Leonard’s cowering, somewhat pathetic son, Daniel, a private tutor. Tom Browne shot the film in his own parents’ house in Cumbria, a cottage crammed with junk and overrun by mice. These homes do exist but you seldom see them on film (Richard Eyre's Iris was an exception). When Leonard refuses to vacate the family sofa and lingers in his own excreta and resentment, his wife Maria (Gemma Jones) calls on Daniel for help. Reluctantly, Daniel turns up from London and tries to sort things out, but spends much of his time contemplating his navel in the spare room. Then, in a moment of rare resolve, he encourages Maria to accept an invitation away and attempts to minister to his father’s needs on his own…




Richard Johnson: in his last performance


Radiator is all very bleak and in need of a stronger narrative hook, but is compelling in its own kitchen sink gloom, thanks largely to the competence of the performances. The squalor of Leonard and Maria’s cottage is nicely off-set by the imposing scenery of the Lake District – and by Daniel’s brief excursions to London – while the occasional appearance of a sympathetic bystander adds some welcome perspective. At times it recalls an English-language version of Michael Haneke’s Amour – dealing, as it does, with the downhill desperation of old age – but retains its quintessential Englishness throughout. Of interest to film buffs, Richard Johnson once turned down the part of James Bond (although he played the not dissimilar Bulldog Drummond in two later films), while Radiator was partly financed by Daniel Craig and executive produced by Craig’s wife, Rachel Weisz. 




Cast: Richard Johnson, Gemma Jones, Daniel Cerqueira, Julia Ford, Aicha Kossoko.


Dir Tom Browne, Pro Genevieve Stevens, Screenplay Browne and Daniel Cerqueira, Ph David Johnson, Pro Des Sarah Kane, Ed Joe Randall-Cutler, Music Simon Allen, Costumes Lorraine Sibanda.


Turnchapel Films-Picture House Entertainment.
93 mins. UK. 2014. Rel: 27 November 2015. Cert. 15.