Inspired by Writer-Director Philip Barantini’s fraught experiences working for a busy restaurant, Boiling Point follows a hectic night in a London fine-dining restaurant. Head Chef Andy Jones (Stephen Graham) faces constant setbacks as he tries to wrangle his kitchen staff, servers, management and even dishwashers to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous instagram stars, wine snobs, jaded ex-partners and even a food critic. As the night spirals out of control for Jones, it’s his staff who start to pay the price.
In one continuous shot, Barantini takes into and through a busy restaurant. With assured staging and impeccable timing he conjures the intensity and stress of the environment. The moments when characters are actually afforded time to concentrate on the making of food are quiet little islands amid the demands of an increasingly hostile modern clientele. The film creates a bubble of noise by occasionally tracking characters to the peace of the world outside of the restaurant, before plunging us back into the chaos of the fray. There are Hollywood blockbuster action sequences that lack the impact of this film’s verbal fracas.
The film primarily deals with stress and pressure. Every character is convinced they are part of the only team correctly doing their job, and that everyone else in the staff is taking it easy. Every character experiences terrible pressure to do their job well and can only respond by becoming angry and increasing the amount of stress amongst the staff. Each devastating explosion destroys the esteem of another member of staff. The cast fully commit to the show and every pained smile, fierce critique and heartfelt outburst is sincere and convincing. The tension compounds as more and more people meltdown and take out their frustrations on the next voice that comes looking for something.
The characters experience a thousand distractions from their roles. Andy is struggling with a recent hygiene assessment, a strained relationship with his family, a crushing financial obligation to a man who he feels has betrayed him and the demands of an increasingly resentful staff. As he rushes from one part of the set to another, we are horribly aware of all he is leaving behind. Every character is constructed in this way, until the entire cast exist in a web of obligation that keeps everybody locked away and unable to work effectively. As a portrait of how stress can paralyse a workforce, this is peerless.
Barantini’s knack for dialogue and affinity for working with actors ensures that the restaurant feels populated by real, intelligent people who know what they need, and who is responsible for their misery. The arguments and rudeness is so very authentic that the film can be viscerally unpleasant at times, but is always captivating. Boiling Point demonstrates that Barantini and his cast are talents to be watched.