Director: Philip Barantini
Starring: Stephen Graham, Vinette Robinson, Alice Feetham, Hannah Walters, Malachi Kirby, Taz Skylar, Lauryn Ajufo, Daniel Larkai, Lourdes Faberes, Jason Flemyng, Ray Panthaki
Run Time: 92 mins
Boiling Point is a drama shot in a single-take in an up-market London restaurant. It is directed by Philip Barantini who expands his 2019 short film of the same name. The ever-versatile Stephen Graham stars as Andy Jones, the Head Chef, who also starred in the short film. As the film opens and Andy arrives at work in a mental daze due to his recent divorce, the restaurant is savagely downgraded from a five-star Health and Safety rating to a three by a pernickety inspector. To add insult to injury, the upcoming evening is overbooked which includes a marriage proposal and the visit of a food critic, Alastair Skye (Jason Flemyng), whom Andy previously worked for.
As a concept, the story might not sound particularly exciting and there have been plenty one-take films in recent memory with Awards contenders such as Birdman and the wildly overrated 1917. Will Boiling Point just reheat cold and unwanted leftovers or will it serve something delectable to the table?
Boiling Point is a thrilling and sharp drama that constantly ramps in tension and maintains its momentum throughout. From the opening sequence of the Health and Safety assessment, Barantini has created a startlingly authentic, cutthroat environment and it’s astonishing to witness a film as riveting as Boiling Point is from seemingly few ingredients.
The script by Barantini and James Cummings is razor-sharp. They introduce a convincing restaurant team from the fellow chefs to the service staff and how they are divided. There is then the inexperienced and shallow restaurant manager, Beth (Alice Feetham) who further splits the teams through micro-managing. The duo deftly tackle themes of influencers, mental health issues through to the relative mundanity of some of the tasks the staff carry out.
Stephen Graham delivers an astonishing performance as Andy, a man at his wits end and on the verge of a breakdown with his home life and the added stresses of ensuring that the dinner service runs like a Swiss watch. He runs around the restaurant like a headless chicken trying to deal with problem after problem and constantly gets sidetracked to a bigger problem.
The rest of the cast are also brilliant and are sure to land future roles based on the strengths of their performances here. Vinette Robinson is sincere as Andy’s assistant Chef, who is also at the end of her tether with the chef’s treatment from Beth and her lack of support from Andy. She very much holds the team together. Alice Feetham is suitably slimy as Beth on the outset but has another side to her that we learn as the film progresses. There are also commendable performances from other cast members such as the waitresses who have to contend with customer abuse through to a young man whose job it is to take the bins out that clearly doesn’t want to be there.
Films that are or have been created to feel like they have been shot in one take have often been labelled as a gimmick, and to some extent this is true. Alfred Hitchcock pioneered and perfected the technique with the exemplary Rope. Like Rope, Boiling Point succeeds as a gripping, anxiety-inducing drama first with searing performances. It isn’t a hollow film that tries to hide behind a showy camera technique – the handheld one-shot take further adds to the hysteria on-screen. I just have one element to nitpick and that is the film fails to explore a sensitive plot line that it introduces with one of the chefs in its first act and sidelines it. Otherwise, Boiling Point is close to an intense masterpiece and makes for an incredible start to the year.