On the enormous list of difficult, strenuous and demanding everyday jobs, being a chef certainly lies somewhere at the very top, with Philip Barantini’s terrific new drama demonstrating just why it remains such a stressful profession. Whilst each of the customers who strut through the doors of the world’s finest restaurants expects five-star service, little thought is given to the micro-team of people behind the facade who deliver such consistent quality.
Such a film is clearly born from the frustrations and hard work of 12 years in the hospitality industry by the director himself, who amalgamates many of his own experiences to create the hot pot nightmare that is Boiling Point. Starring Stephen Graham, the film is an exhausting glimpse into the lives of those working at one of London’s most celebrated restaurants on one of the busiest days of the year, the last Friday before Christmas (known in the hospitality world as ‘Magic Friday’). Drawing in nagging families, parties of excitable friends and even insufferable influencers, Boiling Point follows a restaurant that is barely kept afloat by the desperation of its crew.
Captured in one impressive shot by cinematographer Matthew Lewis, Boiling Point creates a microcosm of stress and anxiety that well represents the nature of an industry that relies on such exhausting tension to exist at all. Zipping across the restaurant floor, through the kitchen and out through the back door, Lewis creates an absorbing sense of frenetic claustrophobia in which, much like the staff, the audience has no time to relax before addressing the next port of call. Before we’ve had time to see if the duck is perfectly cooked, we are whisked off our feet to follow the waitress who’s forced to serve the insufferable family on table 7.
Such creates an atmosphere that all too well replicates the stress of working in hospitality as the camera is dizzied in confusion as it tries to spin the many plates of the frenetic restaurant. Laced in between all the madness are several moments of careful nuance, however, as Philip Barantini finds the time to deconstruct the many stresses and commitments of Steven Graham’s head chef, as well as the bewildered front of house manager or the ambitious bar staff.
Whilst exhausting and tense, Barantini knows when to turn down the heat and carefully deconstruct the peculiar politics of restaurant mannerisms, exposing the whole vibrant cabaret of dining as both customers and staff try their utmost to not upset the fantastical balance. The film is certainly at its very best when it explores every such nook and cranny, from the tension of the main floor to the serenity of the toilets and the liberation of the back door.
Drenched in palpable tension it is the exquisite performance of Stephen Graham who keeps the film afloat, proving to be the perfect conduit to carry the stress, joy and horror of every facet of kitchen life. Marching from station to station, as his confidence dwindles, so too does the kitchen’s performance, acting as the crumbling lynchpin of the demanding and torturous restaurant.
A tense, simmering pot that works its way into a frantic boil, Philip Barantini’s thrilling drama is enough to turn any aspiring chef off the idea of taking on such a hopeless career, whilst advising audiences to think twice before ordering something that isn’t on the menu.
Boiling Point will be in cinemas and on digital platforms in the UK and Ireland on 7th January.