Boiling Point (2021) Philip Barantini
The single-take film seems to be a challenge many directors want to undertake, but in some cases it's not justified. It is justified with Boiling Point (2021) and works well, creating a sense of frantic activity in a busy restaurant kitchen, ramping up levels of anxiety and tension to the audience’s realization that something's got to give.
Andy Jones (Stephen Graham) is the Head Chef at Jones & Sons, an upscale London restaurant, which, as the film opens, has been downgraded from a 5-star Health and Safety raging to 3 stars after a recent inspection. In a brief scene before the action stars, we overhear part of a phone conversation Andy is having as he walks into the restaurant, a conversation that tells us that all is not right in the chef’s personal life.
The same is true of the workplace. I won’t go into the details, but Andy’s kitchen has issues besides the drop in the Health and Safety rating. Perhaps these problems contributed to the lower rating. It doesn’t help that the restaurant’s host micromanages, and that one worker is both lazy and disrespectful, and that the new cold chef from France is struggling with English.
The restaurant is plagued with other problems, some internal, others external. You hear this type of description all the time, but it’s true: Watching the film is like watching a train wreck, but you can’t turn away.
One advantage of the single-shot film is in eliminating flashbacks and backstory. Backstory and character motivation do come out, but in an organic way. That is a blessing and a curse: We aren't bogged down in a character's history, but the actors are challenged to successfully convey to the audience who they are in their actions and words. The trick is to make it look natural, and in this, the actors in Boiling Point succeed.
While Andy is the focal character, and Stephen Graham does a fine job, it’s the supporting cast that makes the film come alive. While many viewers will pick up on little details that spell out plot points a bit too clearly, the film mostly plays fair. Even if you know exactly where things are going, the journey is worth taking.
Boiling Point is streaming on various platforms. I viewed it on Kanopy. The film is not available on physical media in the U.S. but is available on Blu-ray in the UK (Second Sight), France (UFO), and Sweden (Njutafilms)