“If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen”: a common turn of phrase, but this time it becomes very real in Philip Barantini’s one-shot wonder Boiling Point. It’s Christmas time – a busy period for all of the hospitality sector – but for talented head chef Andy (Stephen Graham) the pot is about to overflow. Following the movements of the front and back-of-house staff at the restaurant over the course of the evening, drama begins to unfold as tensions rise and a number of antagonist figures come to the surface.
Fortunately for viewers, after an endless array of awards and nominations for his initial short film, Barantini now serves up a delicious feature-length version with an exceptionally talented cast to sink one’s teeth into. The result is presented in a single-take format, giving a first-person view of an immensely stressful environment where the staff are like swans: graceful on the surface, but paddling away underneath to satisfy their paying customers. It is these characters who carry the film at such a terrific pace, engulfing the viewer in the whirlwind of the workplace – standing at a table whilst orders are taken, over the fryers as flames lick one’s face, and, most significantly, hearing the private conversations that are usually concealed.
Characters are only as interesting as what they can possibly lose. For Andy, there is more than just his job and livelihood at stake, with his family life and mental health also paying a devastating price for his career. At the heart of it all lies his sole wish to see his son and his own inability to be a respectable father.
The role gives Stephen Graham free rein to exhibit his range and treat the audience to the kind of outstanding performance they have come to expect from him. Graham’s Andy walks around like a human egg timer, sand slowly falling from top to bottom. The world moves around him as he steadily runs out of willpower and steam, his head singing like a boiling kettle as problem after problem arises in the restaurant. The real standout performance, however, comes from Vinette Robinson (Carly), who breathes fresh life into every scene with a raw and enticing portrayal, as the front and back-of-house teams begin to clash and the stakes become unbearable.
The film is designed to appear as if shot in one take, and the cinematography is really excellent given the difficulties posed by such a presentation style. The ambiance, too, is electric throughout, proving gaps do not need filling with unnecessary dialogue when the intensity gets so high. With a sprinkling of humour before the heat really does get intolerable, Boiling Point is one to see for anyone in the mood for a three-course meal of tension, acting excellence and visual splendour.
Boiling Point does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2021 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Boiling Point here: