Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 35 minutes, Director – Phillip Barantini
Staff tensions run high when a restaurant experiences its most stressful, and overbooked, night of the year.
“We’re the good guys, we’re here for you” head chef Andy (Stephen Graham) finds himself told by patronising former boss, and celebrity chef, Alastair Skye (Jason Flemyng). It’s words that are hard to believe on a stressful and overbooked night where the critical figure, alongside food critic friend Sara (Lourdes Faberes). Throughout one shot we follow the restaurant’s staff as they put up with rude customers (the dreaded Table 7 – which causes stress and tension at even its mention), improperly noted allergies, menu changes and; perhaps the worst of the lot, Insta-pillocks. The kind of people who believe that they can get what they want simply through the fact that they allegedly have 30 thousand followers on Instagram, who they must livestream their whole lives to. It’s these figures who perhaps create the most frustration in the film, as soon as they request that the ‘not very us’ menu is altered for them so they can have steak and chips – not helped by simply agreement from manager Beth (Alice Feetham).
Each new element, sequence and stress is wonderfully captured in what still manages to feel like a new individual scene or moment that contributes to the overall feel of the piece. The real-time aspect allows for everything to come at once and put the viewer into the heat of the kitchen, while still giving chance to have the occasional look at the bar staff or waiters. During such moments – such as looking into brief conversational interactions at the tables – also help to push the natural working environment feel of the workplace, an extra layer of authenticity and naturalism to the piece as a whole. Thus allowing for there to be what feels like little asides and tracks of other characters to separate locations just so something can be setup behind the camera – particularly in the first half – as sometimes feels to be the case with such one-shots.
Helped along by a series of great performances – all demonstrating a strong, tightly-held ensemble nature with all cast members supporting each other – the staff stresses are bubbling up to heated outbursts and arguments right in front of the busy tables of paying customers. However, there’s always uncertainty as to when such a moment will explode, especially as everyone is trying to keep their cool and stay calm amongst the regular chaos of their jobs. A stunning rant by chef Carly (Vinette Robinson) – who practically runs the kitchen and manages the staff herself – brings every to a crashing halt as your held in suspense with every word she screams at her employer. The camera glides back and forth between them to show gradually shifting reactions, multiple things at once while never losing focus of anything in the scene – and all other figures working and eating in the building.
It’s a shame that after this point the film then begins to build into some form of resolve. While not complete resolve – the evening still has its frustrations – the final half hour manages to shift its tension into effective fear and worry from the characters about their futures, and relationships with those who they work with. This tonal shift certainly brings about a different feel to the film, and while it still works and has you engaged it takes a bit of time to properly settle in to it. There’s still a flow and the film as a whole still works, it just feels rather quickly different due to the change in tone which suddenly takes place after the highlight rant. The film still works and has you involved in the well-caught and tracked world, just not as much as it did in the escalating stress of the almost perfect first hour.
While the final half hour makes for a slight tonal shift, transforming the existing stress and tension conjured by the fine ensemble cast and crew into effective worry, the fluidity of Boiling Point’s first hour brings you in to the busy and impactful restaurant environment.