Amazon Prime Video
Stephen Graham is one of the most ubiquitous actors in the business. This is not to detract from his considerable powers as a performer, but he seems to be popping up all over the place in a whole range of different guises. Boiling Point, written and directed by Philip Barantini (and developed from his 2019 short of the same name), features Graham as head chef Andy Jones, currently helming one of Dalston’s trendiest and most in-demand fine-dining restaurants. Christmas is coming but Andy hasn’t got time to sit back and soak up the festive vibes. He’s running late.
When we first encounter him, he’s already in motion, trying to get to the restaurant for a sold-out pre- Christmas sitting, whilst fielding angry phone calls from the wife he’s recently separated from. She wants to know why he hasn’t been in touch to wish his son a happy birthday. Awkward.
It’s just the start of a breathless journey into a world of relentless high pressure – indeed, this may just qualify as the most stressful viewing experience I’ve had since Uncut Gems – and I mean that in a good way. The conceit here is that Andy’s night is ingeniously filmed in one continuous tracking shot, a device that only serves to amplify the ensuing claustrophobic madness. Unlike many films that are cunningly created using hidden edits, this is the real McCoy. One can only wonder at the pressure the actors must have been under to keep the casserole bubbling. (Trivia fans might care to know that the crew only had time for four takes – and they used the third!)
Once at the restaurant Andy has more problems waiting for him. An officious environmental health inspector is in the process of downgrading the venue’s certificate from five stars to a three; Andy’s team leader, Carly (Vinette Robinson), is pressing him for a wage increase; and it turns out that his old boss, celebrity chef Alistair Skye (Jason Flemying) has booked in to dine and has brought influential food critic Sarah Southworth (Lourdes Faberes) along as his guest…
Throw in the Instagram influencers who want something that’s not actually on the menu, and a boorish customer who keeps insulting the waiters, and you have a recipe for disaster.
What follows can only be described as riveting viewing. There are arguments, misunderstandings, conflicts and catastrophes for Andy to handle and, as the proceedings go from bad to worse, we learn more about his current situation and realise that his career – and possibly his life – is hanging in the balance. As the temperature steadily rises under a metaphorical pressure cooker, we actually relish the leisurely moment where one of the dishwashers strolls outside to empty the rubbish bins, before returning to the madness.
I have only one issue: one particular impending crisis is too heavily signposted, so when it finally comes to fruition, all the dramatic tension has been squandered.
But I’m nitpicking. All kudos to Barantini and cinematographer Matthew Lewis, who come close to rivalling the genius of Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria, another genuine one-shot wonder. Those who enjoy propulsive, high stakes entertainment should strap themselves in for a memorable ride.
Those of you who hanker after a career in fine dining… maybe this frenetic feast won’t be to your taste.