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Boiling Point

Stephen Graham walks the knife’s edge in this turbulent restaurant drama.

Nightmares are proffered in Philip Barantini’s Boiling Point, a deeply stifling drama set amongst the chaos of a London bistro in the lead up to Christmas.

Shot in one take – apparently without the assistance of tricky cuts or trompe l’oeil – the film posits the deft Stephen Graham as Andy, a struggling head chef caught in a whirlwind of personal and professional crises. An extension of Barantini’s short of the same name, Boiling Point will without a doubt trigger the anxieties of anyone familiar to service-based work.

Calm is not a luxury afforded to the film’s calamitous opening: Andy arrives hopelessly late, attempting to quell a deteriorating home life over the phone; an arrogant health inspector demeans the staff and downgrades the hygiene rating for untidy paperwork; tyrannical maître d’ Beth (played with apt haughtiness by Alice Feetham) has overbooked and reprimands staff for being ill-prepared. All this only serves as a vestibule to the dizzying pell-mell of breakdowns and despair searing through the service.

Matters transition from bad to diabolical when Andy’s former boss, servile TV chef Alastair Skye (Jason Flemyng) shows up with critic Sara Southworth (Lourdes Faberes) for reasons more ominous than veiled insults. This conniving presence boils the broth beyond the point of control and a surfeit off-menu orders from bumptious influencers leads the kitchen into shouting matches galore. Can Andy save his business from the maws of complete destruction?

The film’s enervating feel would not be half as potent without the assistance of Matthew Lewis’ intoxicating photography. This sweeping one-shot take clamps the eyelids open like some Kubrickian device from A Clockwork Orange, forcing us to spectate as the tinder box of a kitchen is engulfed in the interminable flames of sautéing pans and frayed tempers.

This palpable anxiety is the sum of many suffocating set pieces, a series of images Graham sets ablaze with nuance and sincerity as he ebbs and flows through the kitchen like a veteran of 20 years. Compliments to the chef.

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