Boiling Point: Claustrophobia in the kitchen

One-shot drama pants grim picture of restaurant life

More than anything else, Boiling Point is about the wretchedness of the public. If Hell is other people, customers occupy the inner circle of that Hell

Film Title: Boiling Point

Director: Philip Barantini

Starring: Stephen Graham, Vinette Robinson, Alice Feetham, Jason Flemyng, Ray Panthaki, Malachi Kirby, Lourdes Faberes, Izuka Hoyle

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 95 min

Fri, Jan 7, 2022, 05:00

   

Every time we get a genuine single-take feature – unlike, say, Sam Mendes’s 1917, Philip Barantini’s propulsive film really is composed of just one shot – we debate whether there is any need for such things. Is this not just a gimmick? Boiling Point makes a good case for the genre (if we can call it that). Taking place in an upmarket east London restaurant on a busy night during the Christmas season, the film gives a real sense of the frantic stress that underlies such operations. The lack of cuts presses home the real-time scenario and allows no escape from the hurtling momentum. Stephen Graham winds worry round pressure to create a believably one-the-edge chef. The medium is definitely part of the message.

There remain familiar issues with the approach. We can live with the moves from sharp kitchen to underlit restaurant and then to positively sepulchral exterior. More nagging is the sense that a little too much is happening in too narrow a time frame. Andy Jones (Graham) is stressed by the arrival of a celebrity chef (Jason Flemyng), now a cash-strapped investor in the restaurant, with a food critic. He is in a dispute over parenting. A health inspector – it’s impossible to avoid thoughts of Fawlty Towers – is here to knock a few points off their rating. In one particularly implausible moment, an ambulance seems to arrive two or three minutes after it has been called.

If Hell is other people, customers occupy the inner circle of that Hell

No matter. The careering nature of the filmmaking scarcely gives the audience time to ponder the overstuffed plotting. The screenplay has things to say about the chaos that sits behind all apparently ordered workplaces. In one brilliant shift, we go from viewing a management figure as a tyrannical idiot to worrying about our capacity to make rash judgements of such ordinary people under such extraordinary strain. Vinette Robinson, winner of supporting actress at the British Independent Film Awards for her role, rides the spectrum as Andy’s long suffering sous chef.

More than anything else, Boiling Point is about the wretchedness of the public. A racist boor asks for the most expensive bottle of wine and barks at a black waitress for merely holding the plate. Another idiot uses his substantial Instagram following to force the staff into making steak and chips. If Hell is other people, customers occupy the inner circle of that Hell.

An infuriating, invigorating ride.

On limited release and video on demand from January 7th