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Boiling Point

Directed by Philip Barantini

Reviewed by Lara Jay Hequet


Unbeknownst to people who dine at restaurants, a commercial kitchen provides an optimal backdrop for drama, with flaring emotions and heightened real-life stories of people working in close proximity under the most intense scrutiny to put food on a plate for a price. This is a world that, as a chef, I inhabited for many years. And this is what Philip Barantini’s low budget, single-take film, Boiling Point, illuminates superbly, in an hour and a half worthy of its eleven BIFA (British Independent Film Awards) nominations. 

Matthew Lewis, the Director of Photography, brilliantly guides us, offering a documentary style, close-up view of the simmering lives of the staff. The characters are so convincing that you’ll believe they’re real. Boiling Point is shot in an actual restaurant kitchen in London, but the unfolding stories could have taken place in any city kitchen in the world. 

Stephen Graham portrays the head chef, Andy Jones, a seemingly good man weighed down by the pressures of work, lack of money and family complexities. Early on, you realise that he is on the brink of losing control, like a huge pot of soup with the heat turned up too high, about to boil over. Andy is in charge of a team, each with their own real-life entanglements starting to fray, as they come together on a busy night of service. They’re struggling to provide dinner for a number of ungrateful and unbothered customers; the plates of food and glasses of wine provide solace to their selfish appetites in life.

As if personal pressures were not enough, a fastidious food health inspector arrives as the staff begin to prepare for the evening’s service. The inspector performs the necessary work in full; he looks under sinks, glares at work surfaces that are less than satisfactorily polished, and thumbs through work records. He’s indifferent to the chaos that is about to erupt in the kitchen. He doesn’t even pretend to hide the pleasure he takes in the power bestowed on him to make or to break the restaurant. 

The pressure grows with each minute of the unsteady camera which never settles; it’s constantly mirroring the frenzy of the staff on the move, their interactions behind the kitchen doors as well as with the diners. 

There are pretentious customers who take the opportunity to bully for a seat at the restaurant; arrogant social media influencers who demand food that’s not on the menu; the threat looming that one of the customers has an allergy that hasn’t been properly accounted for; and rivalry and jealousy between the head chef and his former boss who decides to check in unexpectedly on his progress. All the personalities and tensions add a splash of spice to an already very hot sauce of a script. The sous chef speaks for everyone when she asserts, ‘I do not get paid enough to deal with this shit’.

It’s difficult for you to hate any of the characters in this drama because, though they are all flawed, they could be you. It’s an ambitious blend but Boiling Point is a dish with problematic human interactions as its ingredients, simmering with emotional intelligence, compassion and resilience.