Philip Barantini’s intense kitchen-set drama Boiling Point may not be the first film to be shot entirely in a single take. Still, it utilizes the technique masterfully, ensuring that the style compliments the story as opposed to serving as a mere gimmick. Aside from a few awkward stumbles, Barantini – who co-wrote, produced, and directed the feature – maintains a firm grip on the proceedings, skillfully escalating tension. He doesn’t really say anything profound, nor does he attempt to, but as a study of a man’s crisis, set against the heated backdrop of a restaurant kitchen, the searing feature deserves at least one cinematic equivalent of a Michelin star.
We follow the on-edge Chef Andy Jones (Stephen Graham) through a particularly taxing night at his respected eatery. An inspector informs him that, due to the documentation being all over the place, his food hygiene rating has “gone down from a five to a three.” Rude, racist, and sexist customers harass Andy’s staff. An off-the-menu order by a bunch of influencers throws everything into temporary chaos. His sous-chef, Carly (Vinette Robinson), unleashes fury on their manager, Beth (Alice Feetham). To add icing to the cake, Andy’s former colleague and friend, Alastair Skye (Jason Flemyng), shows up, filled with resentment, with a food critic as his date.
“…his food hygiene rating has gone down from a five to a three.”
While the majority of the focus is on Andy, Barantini and cinematographer Matthew Lewis expertly diverge here and there to provide insightful glimpses into the lives of the rest of the staff, like the newcomer Camille (Izuka Hoyle) or the waitress Andrea (Lauryn Ajufo), or especially Beth. The film fluidly veers from drama (a discovery of multiple suicide attempts) to comedy (the pissed-off, take-no-s**t dishwasher). At times, in a vaguely-Altmanesque fashion, Barantini frames several characters and unfolding dilemmas in a single shot, before following one down their respective spiral. As a result, he achieves a realistic depiction of what it’s like behind the scenes of a typical restaurant (or at least I assume he does, Anthony Bourdain’s books and TV series being my only point of reference).
Stephen Graham is a great character actor, long overdue for recognition. Here, Barantini grants him an opportunity to shine. From leveling his staff with dirt to apologizing profusely, from losing his s**t on a staff member to casually demonstrating how to shuck an oyster properly, he’s an absolute livewire. We fear for him, but we also fear what’s driving him and whether he’s crossed the point of no return. The rest of the cast more than keeps up and the stoic and vulnerable Alice Feetham arguably being the standout.
The single-take thing can’t help but feel forced from time to time, Lewis’s camera triggering the unfolding of events as opposed to merely observing them. When the action shifts away from certain characters, one gets the distinct feeling of a stage play, wherein actors get to take a break while others hold center stage. That being said, I have a distinct sense that, unlike its bigger-budget counterparts, Boiling Point contains no digital trickery or sneaky cuts. As such, this is one intensely-flavored meal that begs to be swallowed in a single bite. Compliments to the chef.
"…unlike its bigger-budget counterparts, this film contains no digital trickery or sneaky cuts."