Boiling Point, directed in an amazing single take by Philip Barantini, stars a wonderful performance by Stephen Graham as a chef in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of a fashionable restaurant kitchen.
If you can't stand the heat...by Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Filmed in a single take, Philip Barantini’s one-location drama serves up a brilliant performance from Stephen Graham as a chef on the edge. It’s utterly immersive, creating the raw experience of an inexorably accelerating breakdown.
Boiling Point is always on the move, and yet somehow oppressively claustrophobic, as the tension gradually builds to the point of no return suggested by its title.
As the chef in the Gordon Ramsay aggressive mould, Graham is clearly having the day from hell. It’s the Friday before Christmas, every restaurant’s busiest evening. As the film starts, he’s frantically on the phone on his way to the restaurant: we learn he’s living out of a suitcase, separated from his wife and young son, whom he desperately tries to connect with.
His working day starts with a catastrophic visit from the environmental health inspector, who downgrades the restaurant by two Michelin stars. The days gets worse for him with difficult customers, recalcitrant staff, food not having been ordered which means the full menu can’t be offered and he has to improvise, tension exploding with front of house, a stressful encounter with his malignant previous boss (a celebrity chef) who brings an influential restaurant reviewer and a customer having a romantic evening ruined by a near-death reaction to a nut allergy.
As chef, he is supported by stalwart team leader, sous chef Carly (Bifa winner Vinette Robinson) and her exasperated colleague Freeman (Ray Panthaki). But he’s seemingly ungrateful: even they can’t make this hamster-wheel of stressful events he’s trapped on stop and all he’s really doing by chastising them is passing the buck for his own failures.
How the end of the evening comes is unexpected.
This is a film which holds your appalled and panic-stricken attention throughout, its seamless one-take creating urgency and involvement. It really works. We’ve all eaten in a restaurant, so we can imagine what it’s like as a customer: you may find yourself holding your breath as the nightmare that’s usually hidden from you unfolds in front of your eyes.
Boiling Point screens at the BFI London Film Festival on 11 and 12 October 2021 and is released on 7 January 2022 in the UK and Ireland.