Boiling Point is what, in the restaurant world, they would call “high concept”. Delivering your meal, a.k.a a 92-minute film set in a busy restaurant, in one continuous take. The restaurant in question is run by head chef Andy (Stephen Graham), whose long list of personal problems threaten to derail an already heightened service that includes acrimonious staff, difficult customers, an old adversary, and the pressures of keeping a frenetic kitchen and overbooked restaurant floor going.
If that all sounds a bit like Hell’s Kitchen, it is important to remember that a program like that is edited to heighten the drama. Yes, Graham does tell someone to “GET OUT OF MY KITCHEN!” but that’s where the similarities end. By stripping away the editing and filming the whole movie in one shot, the tension must be organically generated by the actors and the plot.
Stephen Graham is an actor who, right now, is riding the crest of a never ending wave. Whether it is the big or small screen, he has proven himself to be universally excellent in every role – and Boiling Point is no different. His head chef Andy is a talented cook, but his own worst enemy. He is like a frog placed in water, whose temperature is slowly increased until the frog boils alive. By the time he realises the shit has hit the fan oven, it is too late.
Heard of Chekhov’s Gun, the dramatic principle that if you introduce a gun in the first act, it will be fired in the third act? Well, Boiling Point introduces the alternative: Chekhov’s Nut Allergy. As soon as one table tells their waitress that they are allergic to nuts, viewers are on tenterhooks waiting to see how their plate will become contaminated, and what potentially deadly consequence lies in wait.
There are many subplots introduced in the first half of the film that fail to see a pay off by closing. While this can prove mildly frustrating – did anyone actually spit in the pompous idiot at Table 7’s food, for example? – it makes more sense to streamline the narrative by focusing on Andy’s problems. It is a case, as John Torode on MasterChef would say, of avoiding “too many things on the plate”. After all, in order to create the perfect dish, every single element must be perfectly balanced and working in harmony with one another. That is what we have here. Every single person on the film’s set, whether actors (some of whom clearly learned how to cook for this project), extras, sound crew, or camera operators, all fall seamlessly into each other’s rhythm to ensure that every mark is hit, every line of dialogue delivered at the right time, and all comes together as envisioned.
They say that if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Bringing Boiling Point up to the pass, writer-director Philip Barantini proves he is worthy of a seat at Chef’s table.
Boiling Point screened at the London Film Festival 2021 and is in cinemas from December 3rd 2021.