By Stephen Philip
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Stresses of restaurant life make for absorbing cinema

A single shot tells an increasingly tense story on a high-end restaurant’s busiest night—making Boiling Point a taut watch, writes Stephen Philip
Issue 2785
Vinette Robinson as Carly and Stephen Graham as head chef Andy prepare a plate in a professional kitchen

Tensions bubble beneath the surface between head chef Andy and Carly, who props him up

This absorbing, tense drama from upcoming director Philip Barantini is utterly engaging as we find ourselves fully immersed in the minutiae of restaurant life.

It works best at the more everyday events than its moments of high drama.

Chef Andy Jones (Stephen Graham) barrels in to a chic east London restaurant, stressed out and babbling, swigging excessively from a flask with suspicious relish.

The first order of the day is to placate the health and safety inspector who’s made a surprise visit.

Documentary style, the camera tracks behind Andy. He struggles with the juggling act one can expect in a top end restaurant, complete with frantic-paced demands, diverse staff, and a dilettante manager.

The camera prowls across the restaurant, capturing the continual simmering of everyday stresses and strains associated with modern restaurant life. Impressively, it’s all done in one continuous long take.

It’s not long before the chef has even more on his plate. Andy finds ­himself wholly unprepared when his ex-business partner, a celebrity TV chef, Alistair Sky (Jason Flemyng) pays an impromptu visit. In tow is a top restaurant critic, which is enough to send Andy into a panic.

Not fully knowing Alistair’s agenda does nothing for Andy’s stress levels.

Serving up culinary perfection can only be realised through the collective efforts of a cohesive team. But this harmony is not easily achievable when some feel they are not properly recognised and respected for the work they do.

Better pay and effective management of their workload would help. But Andy is falling apart and it’s all about to hit the proverbial fan.

Carly (Vinette Robinson) gives a cracking performance as a talented chef who feels she’s propped up Andy one too many times. Perhaps it’s the right moment to head off for pastures new, where there’s higher pay.

The grill chef is also ready to let rip at Andy for letting the side down. Then there’s the pregnant dishwasher, infuriated by a lazy co-worker, who’s too busy being charming, or smoking weed.

We even see the near fatality of a customer, owing to Andy’s careless supervision of a trainee French chef, who’s struggling to understand the rapid delivery of Andy’s accent.

The camera keeps probing, discovering obnoxious customers. Laddish Instagram influencers insist they want an off-menu steak. A newly affluent bigoted patriarch dishes out nastiness to a black waiter.

The technique of using one continuous take to follow the turbulence of restaurant life proves strangely compelling. It brilliantly captures the simple rhythm of food preparation, snatched conversations and clashes among staff.

It’s not quite a microcosm of capitalism. But it does give voice to the issues surrounding working as a cooperative endeavour—individualism versus responsibilities to the collective.

Boiling Point’s lower key register of an observational storytelling style is arguably in tension with the higher stakes plotting.

But the whole is held together by the ever reliable and brilliant Stephen Graham, the convincing cast and its exhilarating momentum.

Boiling Point is in cinemas from Wednesday 29 December

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