We’ve all heard it’s hot in the kitchen; we may have watched Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, but Boiling Point takes the heat in the professional kitchen to a whole new level.
Released last summer, the film is now available on Curzon Home Cinema, which is how I came to find it and watch it last night. Of course, it was the kitchen and the food which attracted my interest, but a quick look at reviews made it look like a film worth watching, so I paid my money (Curzon at home costs almost as much as Curzon in the actual cinema!) and sat down to watch it.
Ninety-five minutes long, Boiling Point is filmed as a single take, giving it a documentary edge; the sense that this is real. It opens rather ominously with head chef and restaurant owner, Andy, making his way along a dark alleyway lined with overflowing bins, his phone glued to his ear as he’s clearly trying to soothe some domestic crisis. Entering the restaurant late, and close to opening time, he finds his staff being harassed by a health and safety inspector. Someone has been ‘caught’ washing their hands in the basin meant for just food washing; there are other small offences – their rating is dropped from 5* to 3*. But the main problem is that Andy has lost his grip on everything. He’s not been filling in necessary forms; his staff have been covering for him in the kitchen. And as we watch him lose his grip more and more, he swears à la Ramsay with constant f***ings and has to be told to quieten down: the kitchen is an open one and customers can hear.
The opening tension just mounts and mounts. There are awkward customers, none more so that Andy’s former boss, now a celebrity chef, who tells the restaurant critic he’s brought along that the food is good, really good, but it just needs … and asks for a ramekin of za’atar to ‘finish’ a dish off; there’s a bunch of Instagram influencers who think they’re important enough to demand off-the-menu dishes – their lack of sophistication shown in them ordering merely steak and chips; there’s the guy who orders the most expensive bottle of wine on the list to show off and then complains that his slightly pink lamb is undercooked, throwing the commis chef who cooked it into a state of high indignation; and there’s the woman with the nut allergy. Her boyfriend has warned the staff … but we just know that’s it’s going to go terribly wrong, as we witness the increasing chaos.
It’s the performances of Andy (Stephen Graham) and his sous chef Carly (Vinette Robinson) that really shine. She’s the one really running the show, holding it all together, covering for her boss while at the same time worrying he’s okay. As the restaurant gets busier and busier, the tension mounts to an almost unbearable level. I felt like I was a kid again wanting to hide behind the sofa rather than watch the screen. This was enough to put you off restaurants in all honesty but it was also irresistibly compelling. And you knew it was all going to end badly … but how?
The ending is sharp, abrupt, shocking. One of those sudden endings that leave you reeling and thinking, Is that it? But it’s also the inevitable and therefore a perfect ending.
Boiling Point isn’t a comfortable watch. This is a film that will put you on edge and make you wonder how anyone survives a professional kitchen if life in it is like this. But wow! It’s powerful stuff and well worth sitting on the edge of your sofa for 95 minutes.
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