Boiling Point

Review by Jack King @jackarking

Directed by

Philip Barantini


Alice Feetham Stephen Graham Vinette Robinson


Will watch anything with Stephen Graham, but that’s about it.


Uncut Gems by way of Kitchen Nightmares: what’s not to love?

In Retrospect.

Ugh, that ending... but the rest!

Stephen Graham plays a head chef pushed to the limit in this impressive one-shot pressure-cooker kitchen drama.

The professional kitchen should lend itself well to the sort of sweat-inducing freneticism popularised by the Safdie brothers, at least judging by TV docusoap Kitchen Nightmares. So as to prove such a thesis, enter Philip Barantini’s second feature, Boiling Point: shot in what appears to be a single take (yep, literally an uncut gem) across a Dalston restaurant’s evening service, here’s one to make you sweat more than a hard-pressed maître d’.

Enter a haggard Stephen Graham, whose character, Andy, is once again having a torrid time of it (is there anyone better, in the current moment, at playing the under the cosh everyman). As head chef, he has the sort of sandpapery stubble that signposts lassitude, his hands cracked, no doubt stinking of meat and salt. Arriving at work, he grumbles apologies down the phone to his son, once again having missed his swim meet.

More shit accumulates from herein. Before service, an overzealous inspector (Thomas Coombes who, in the most complimentary of terms, you’d love to slap the spit out of) knocks the restaurant’s health and safety rating down from a five to a three; a casually racist meathead gets off to abusing one of the Black waiters; in a moment of striking sensitivity, a young lad on the pastry section inadvertently reveals his self-harm scars; and with little warning, in waltzes celebrity chef Alastair Skye (Jason Flemyng) with food critic Sara Southworth (Lourdes Faberes) in tow.

Each table, it seems, is its own variously contrived little bomb. It’s less a case of waiting to see which one blows first, more which will take out the entire neighbourhood.

Formally, the film seldom takes its foot off the gas. Matthew Lewis’ handheld camera is imbued with its own erratic, ever-heightening cadence. He dips and darts around the tables and cooking stations like a pesky mosquito. We’re given the occasional moment or two to wring out our shirts, but like a kitchen porter with ever-piling crockery to put through the wash, reprieves are few and far between.

Andy is our main point of orbit, but it’s to Barantini’s credit that we’re given good time with the broader ensemble, most of whom have their own niggles and woes. Aside from Graham, as terrific as he ever is, Vignette Robinson stands out as Carly, Andy’s brilliant but beleaguered second-in-command on the verge of jumping ship. In one of the film’s many eponymous moments of explosive steam-whistling, she gives her incompetent manager the Alex Ferguson hairdryer treatment: a magmic torrent of rage that spills from the gut and, once the lid is up, feels impossible to stop.

With such a short runtime and gargantuan pile of grievances, it must be said, adequate resolution feels increasingly fleeting: it’s all kept on heat until the last, with lots of small climactic moments leading to a strained crescendo, and a denouement that doesn’t quite land. You get the sense, vanishingly rare so it is, that this could’ve done with more minutes. But, to paraphrase the smarmy Skye, it’s 95 per cent of the way there; I’ve tasted far, far worse.

Published 5 Jan 2022

Tags: Boiling Point Philip Barantini Stephen Graham


Will watch anything with Stephen Graham, but that’s about it.


Uncut Gems by way of Kitchen Nightmares: what’s not to love?

In Retrospect.

Ugh, that ending... but the rest!

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