In BOILING POINT (2021), personal and professional crises threaten to destroy everything a successful London head chef has worked for on one busy night. I loved this one.
As Christmas nears, it’s one of the busiest nights in a popular upscale London restaurant. We see head chef Andy Jones (played to perfection by veteran Stephen Graham) heading to work, where we learn he’s estranged from his wife and trying to get his life in order. Meanwhile, at the restaurant, a grueling health inspection discovers the distracted Andy has not been taking care of business. We meet some of the members of his staff, his stalwart second Carly (played so well by Vinette Robinson I said to my partner during one of her scenes, “Where did they find her!?”), assistant chefs, servers, manager, and so on. After they organize for the night, the customers start filling the tables, some pretty obnoxious, and they include Andy’s old partner, a celebrity chef (Jason Flemyng producing just the right amount of smugness) and his date, a brutal food critic. Along the way, we see the staff play wack a mole with issues and squabble, and we finally get to the root of Andy’s problems.
The film is audaciously shot in a single take, always an impressive feat, especially for this film, where the result really feels like you’re a fly on the wall in a restaurant. This could have been be a show-offy gimmick, but in this case, it really ratchets the tension, which periodically releases only in the storytelling, not in the camera work. Otherwise, it’s pretty cinema verite, and it works here. Stephen King, I think it was, once wrote that people enjoy reading about other people doing work, and I have to admit that’s true, especially in this film. Much of the action is the staff coming together and apart while dealing with workers showing up late, there not being enough of certain ingredients, tedious but necessary safety regulations, dealing with asshole customers and coworkers, juggling too many demands in too little time, and finding a moment for some quick kidding and a laugh. (Anybody who’s ever worked in a restaurant–I worked dish washing jobs all through high school back in the day–can relate, and my partner, who once worked as a bartender, ended up having a stress dream set at her old job after watching the movie.) Interlacing it all is the fact Andy isn’t on the ball, his life is crumbling, and it’s disrupting the entire operation, which provides a subtle central conflict that slowly unravels until the big reveal.
The result is a really solid film. From the skilled direction to the excellent, natural acting and world building, I found it quite compelling for a story about work. My only criticism is when things go bad, the story really goes for it. Everything makes sense, when the final punch is revealed, though it might have been more effective to contrast that punch with a big success. Overall, though, again I enjoyed this one a lot, and I’ll be keeping an eye on the director (Philip Baranti, who befriended Graham on the set of BAND OF BROTHERS) for his next feature.