Filmed as one continuous tracking shot, Philip Barantini’s Boiling Point uses this technique to enhance its story rather than using it as a niche. Filled with colorful characters and featuring a stellar lead performance from Stephen Graham, the film ratchets up the tension to show the immense pressures an upscale London restaurant faces on a daily basis.
Andy Jones (Graham) runs a hot new restaurant in London. As the head chef, his responsibilities are endless. With pressures mounting in his personal life, Andy enters to start work on a busy night.
The food inspector kicks things off by lowering the star rating of the restaurant from a five to a three. While there are some small kitchen issues, the majority of the problem is with Andy’s paperwork and lack of attention. Meanwhile, Andy’s longtime sous chef Carly (Vinette Robinson) wants a raise or she will accept an offer from another restaurant.
The restaurant manager Beth (Alice Feetham) is on a power trip and is driving everyone crazy, specifically cook Freeman (Ray Pathaki) who is not shy in expressing his feelings. Pastry chef Emily (Hannah Walters) and her apprentice Billy (Taz Skyler) are dealing with their own emotional issues, but at least they get to do it in the back.
With the night ramping up, Andy learns his old partner and celebrity chef Alastair Skye (Jason Flemyng) is popping in with a food critic with more on his mind than just the food. With pressure mounting in all areas, Andy tries to get through the night without everything boiling over.
Everyone involved has their own trajectories inside and outside the restaurant. Andy is dealing with his living situation and missing his son’s sporting activities. Carly has to balance her potential with her devotion to Andy. The bartender and a waitress flirt while supplies run out in the back.
The restaurant guests are just as alive as the staff. While a group of American tourists is charmed by a waiter, another young waitress has the table from hell. Beth bends over backward to cater to a group of “influencers”, while a young man has his proposal to his girlfriend all planned out.
The restaurant evolves like an organism and is set up with that malleable idea in mind. When one of the dishwashers goes to take out the trash, we follow him into the alley. The diversion is a well-earned respite from the chaos inside. At the same time, one of the more tender moments happens in the thick of the kitchen between the pastry chefs. While they recognize the gravity of the situation, they also know this is not the time nor the place.
The continuous camera lends itself to be a spy on the ins and outs of the daily goings-on. The restaurant is far too vast to focus on the same characters, so the camera wanders in interesting directions and different storylines. It might seem like a trick, but when the camera finally cuts to black, the audience can finally relax and realize they’ve been holding their breath all the while.
Though Graham is the main star of the kitchen and the film, the action is not solely focused on him. Robinson shines as a woman who knows she is too good for her current situation but is staying out of devotion to a friend. Her exasperation eventually reaches a peak and she lashes out at her boss in a seemingly never-ending stream of obscenities and complaints.
Feetham gets the opposing end of that lashing and she balances the hateable and relatable aspects of her character well. Despite everything being thrown at her being probably deserved, she is still a human and takes it with the emotion you would expect. Her one chance to show vulnerability is hidden behind a bathroom stall, where she composes herself and returns to the daily grind.
Flemyng also shines as the type of fast-talking celebrity chef you would expect. His friendly veneer eventually crumbles and it allows viciousness and callousness to shine through. Despite the audience never siding with his character, his evil logic is always sound.
Everything falls on the shoulders of Graham and he does not disappoint. When we first meet him, we expect a Gordan Ramsey-esqe lambasting of the kitchen, which is initially what we get. Later, Andy replaces that outburst with warmth as he apologizes for yelling. How else could someone like him reach his level by inspiring fear as well as devotion? As the film reaches its end, Graham has a showstopping phone call where he lays out his insecurities and promises to change his ways. The actor delivers one of the performances of the year.
With near-unbearable levels of tension and led by Graham’s steady hand, Boiling Point may be too much for some viewers, but those willing to take the ride will be in for a treat.