Boiling Point (2021) ☆☆☆1/2 (3.5/4): One tense evening at a restaurant

I often braced myself while watching “Boiling Point”, a tense and electrifying drama continuously unfolded in one upmarket restaurant located somewhere in London. Mainly revolving around a very troubled head chef and a bunch of other people working in that posh restaurant, the movie gradually raises the level of emotional tension along its fluid and dexterous narrative, and it surely strikes us hard as not only its flawed hero but also several other characters around him come to reach to each own, yes, boiling point.

At first, we are introduced to Andy Jones (Stephen Graham), and we slowly come to gather some personal details of his as he is hurriedly going to his restaurant. Besides his recent divorce, his life has been quite a mess due to several reasons to be revealed later in the story, but another evening at his restaurant is about to begin right now, and he must ready himself well before the opening hour just like those employees working there.

However, the situation does not look particularly good when he enters the restaurant, which happens to be going through a routine health and safety inspection. The inspector assigned to the restaurant has already noticed a number of significant problems in the kitchen, and he accordingly comes to downgrade its rating from 5 stars to 3 stars with a tactful warning. Andy naturally becomes quite exasperated, but he has to admit that he is partially responsible for this serious professional humiliation as he has been quite distracted by his problems during last two months.

At least, it seems that he and his employees will go through their another evening fairly well. Everyone will surely be quite busy because it happens to be a Friday night before Christmas, and there is also some serious food shortage problem to deal with, but everything may turn out to be okay as long as Jones keeps things under control along with Carly (Vinette Robinson), who has been his second-in-command. As observing their interactions, we come to gather that Carly has been an invaluable coordinator for Andy and others at the restaurant, and we are not so surprised when she demands to him salary raise later in the story. After all, it is apparent to us that she has taken care of many big and small troubles for her boss, and she does not feel like being appreciated by her boss for that at all.

Anyway, the situation becomes a bit more stressful than expected due to several unwelcomed factors. There is a very unpleasant customer who is not so nice to waiters and chefs right from when he orders wines, and he also gives them a big headache as complaining about a lamb dish served to him later. In case of three rude Americans suddenly coming into the restaurant, they promptly demand something not on the menu, and Andy and his employees have to tolerate them because these superficial dudes happen to have a very popular Instagram account.

Above all, Andy is belatedly notified that an old colleague of his, who has been very popular thanks to his successful TV show, is going to have a dinner at the restaurant. When this guy finally comes, he comes along with a certain well-known figure in the local restaurant business field, and that makes Andy and his employees more nervous. If they do not do their best during this evening, their restaurant may suffer something worse than their recently downgraded health and safety rating.

All these and many other things in the story are seamlessly presented on the screen via one impressive continuous take, and director/co-writer/co-executive producer Philip Barantini, who adapted his 2019 short film of the same name along with his co-writer James Cummings, and his crew members including cinematographer Matthew Lewis did a superb job of immersing us into the main characters’ increasingly tense circumstance. While it may look modest compared to more ambitious films such as Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” (2014) or Sam Mendes’ “1917” (2019), the movie distinguishes itself well via its skillful camerawork coupled with effortless verisimilitude, and it is really amazing that Barantini and his cast and crew members did only four takes during their shooting (They actually planned to do eight takes at first, but they later decided to cut down to four takes because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic).

The main cast members are believable in their respective roles, and their good ensemble performance is one of the main reasons why the movie engages us from the beginning to the end. While Stephen Graham, who has been one of the most interesting British actors since he drew my attention for his memorable supporting turn in Shane Meadows’ “This Is England” (2006), deservedly received a BAFTA nomination for his intense performance here in this film early in this year, the other main cast members have each own moment to shine, and Vinette Robinson is wonderful especially during one particular scene where she has to convey us a lot of her character’s emotional conflict.

In conclusion, “Boiling Point” is impressive for not only its commendable technical aspects but also a series of engaging human moments observed from its numerous main characters, and you may come to reflect a bit on how difficult it really is to run a restaurant. Unless what we are going to eat is really terrible or harmful to us, we should show some appreciation to those hard-working people, shouldn’t we?

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