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Review: 'Boiling Point' (2022) Dir. Jon Watts

Stephen Graham, Vinette Robinson, Alice Feetham, Jason Flemyng, Ray Panthaki, Hannah Walters, Malachi Kirby and Lauryn Ajufo

 

Originally a 2019 short, this was expanded on to debut as a feature film at the 2020 London Film Festival and now makes a 2022 UK cinematic debut as an intense one-shot take drama...


It's 'Mad Friday' in November, one of - if not THE - busiest night of the year in the London hospitality trade. At one such restaurant in the city, head chef Andy Jones (Graham) is in charge of the operation.


It doesn't start smoothly with the surprise arrival of Health Inspector Mr Lovejoy (Thomas Coombes) who piles on unwanted pressure to the team by picking up on points that knocks their health score down from previous visits.


With the help of fellow chefs Carly (Robinson), Freeman (Panthaki) and Amy (Freeman), Andy needs to up the high quality and expectation of the restaurant and deliver to the paying customers, while keeping it together and making it through the service...

It's nearly Christmas, and a bustling London restaurant is opening the doors for another busy night, and director Philip Barantini takes us inside for a film that feels as close to reality as possible. Barantini expands his original 2019 20minute short, and brings back many of the original cast, for a feature look at the workings of such a restaurant. There is no score, no soundtrack, no added effects - it's a diegetic experience hearing the chatter, the commotion, the sizzling of meat and shouts from kitchen where you can almost taste the lamb as it's served up for service.


Our main character Andy is introduced to an already stressful shift by leaving a heartfelt voicemail apologising for missing his son's birthday; a fleeting glimpse of the real man behind the hard-exterior shell of head chef he builds up from entering the restaurant, to be immediately bombarded with a surprise visit from a pedantic health inspector who piles on unwanted pressure before the shift has even started. From then on, it's a literal non-stop 90 minute journey set in the middle of East London's Dalston district.


Stephen Graham is a tour-de-force to experience as Andy himself; an acclaimed actor of the big and small screen, but proving here is is an exceptional thespian working with more focused, intimate and dramatic material he can really immerse himself in. He makes Gordon Ramsay's TV personality seem like a kitten, and comes across like he's actually been working in a restaurant kitchen all his life. There's no polished sheen to his portrayal as head-chef Andy, or sugar coated gloss to make him anything other than a normal man going through a hard time. You can't help feel sorry for this man, even following his heated outburst to staff, he calms and we see him as the supportive boss and friend once he gets his head back in the zone, but struggles with the pressure of running a kitchen and getting his reputation back up.

We are treated to some of the best talent in the British acting industry, stripped from the evident predictability of a staged narrative and coming across as if this is a fly-on-the-wall documentary that we are all witnessing live with them.

Vinette Robinson is Sous Chef Carly, often juggling the kitchen and relationships between Andy and his staff. She's the calm and collected middle-ground, but not afraid to speak her mind and protect her own career. Robinson has forged a solid career in TV drama, and here she is brilliant opposite Graham and looks as natural in a kitchen as anyone.


However it's not just Graham and Robinson who are on top form, it's the ensemble around him shedding light on their own character's personal experiences and stresses. Ray Panthaki as chef Freeman. Hannah Walters and Alex Heath as pastry chefs Amy and Ollie. Alice Feetham as front of house Beth. Gary Lamont as bar manager Dean. Lauryn Ajufo as server Andrea. They're all in this together, and all add to the drama with their interactions between colleagues and the public, including obnoxious influencers, talkative friends, racist diners and self indulgent food critic Jason Flemyng, all adding unwanted stress to an already stressful environment.


A wonderful diverse cast of talent who make this feel and look a real bustling London restaurant where there is no single narrative, but many small ones making up a greater experience.

There is no beginning, middle or end to the stories we glimpse, but we are thrown into a world already bustling with activity and this is all the better for it, giving us a tense and focused experience where you can't afford to be distracted to follow everything going on. And Barantini as writer doesn't pile on disaster upon disaster to make it almost like a farce. Events and conversations are restrained and often underplayed, letting the natural details play out for maximum effect without being too theatrical.


It's the production that stands out here - a continuous one shot take. No evident tricks of the camera or visual effects or cutaways here, and if there are then they are near impossible to see unlike Hollywood efforts. There is no reason a cast and crew so invested and talented couldn't run with a 90min production here in one take, for it's just the same as working on stage and you can't see the blend between scripted and improvised dialogue / actions. The technical skill is admirable to keep the lighting, focus, sound balance and framing all on point, and kudos to cinematographer Matthew Lewis for the camera work that really does put us in the middle of it.

'Boiling Point' is a tightly choreographed and laid out production, working the one-shot camera technique perfectly and using a superb British cast and crew to bring the hectic restaurant experience to life.





'Boiling Point' is a co-production between Ascendant Films, Burton Fox Films, White Hot Productions, Three Little Birds Pictures, Alpine Films, Bromantics, Insight Media Fund, Matriarch Productions and Urban Way Productions


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