Boiling Point

Boiling Point ★★★★

This was gripping from the first moment to (nearly) the last, unravelling beautifully and with an impressive air of realism. I've never worked in a kitchen (thank god), and this film demonstrates exactly why the thought sends a shiver down my spine - you're under sustained, unrelenting pressure, constantly having to make quick decisions and always having to think ahead to the next dish. Your colleagues are shouting at you; diners are waving you down - cumulatively, it's my idea of hell. Seeing it all play out under the microscope like this will, I hope, make me way more empathetic to the staff I see the next time I'm in a restaurant.

It's very skilfully filmed, and the decision to film the story in one take feels earned and natural given the subject matter - the camera's POV almost represents that of an invisible member of staff, sweeping between tables and rooms, observant yet unnoticed. It makes the whole viewing experience feel extremely immersive, a feeling that's amplified by the impressive naturalism of the performances - Stephen Graham turns in an impeccable performance as always, and is ably supported by a large but memorable supporting cast (Vinette Robinson stands out as a colleague who's reaching her own boiling point - thoroughly fed up with the escalating sloppiness of Graham's head chef Andy).

'Boiling Point' only stumbles when it falls into artifice, relying on storytelling tropes more than the raw, kinetic energy of the setting. There's a subplot concerning Andy's messy, troubled past with an insufferable TV chef who turns out to be paying the restaurant a visit along with a famous food critic (!), and while all the performers involved are talented and play off each other well, the scenario can't help but feel contrived.

The film also falls into the unfortunate trap of not really knowing how to end - there is some build up to the events in the film's final moments, but they ultimately feel a little arbitrary and unearned. There have been lots of comparisons between this film and Uncut Gems (including from me!), but I feel like in some ways the films are the inverse of each other - Uncut Gems can feel maddeningly drawn out while you're in it, but ends with an incredible bang that makes the whole experience feel remarkably satisfying; Boiling Point is totally absorbing and immersive for 95% of its runtime, but feels a tad unfinished because it ends with something of a dull thud.

With a better ending and the confidence to not fall back on contrivance, this could have been five stars - nonetheless, it's still really well done and I'll be keeping an eye on this director.