What’s eating head chef Andy Jones (Stephen Graham)? It’s not till we’re deep into this multi-kitchen-sink drama, set in a fancy London restaurant, that we have a clue. Still, thanks to the formidable team assembled by Philip Barantini, being kept in the dark is a pleasure.
Which is not to say that Boiling Point is relaxing. Shot in one take, in real time, the deliberately claustrophobic film involves so many catastrophes, humiliations and cruel epiphanies that viewers of a sensitive disposition may find themselves tempted to scream: I can’t stand this heat!
On the night Andy discovers his eatery has been downgraded by a health and safety inspector, he’s also told that the urbane celebrity chef he used to work for, Alastair (Jason Flemyng) is in the house, and has a restaurant critic with him. Around his subordinates and equals, working-class Andy is either apoplectic or pathetically eager to please. With authority figures he’s sullen. The death stare he gives Alastair fits into none of these categories.
Graham had a small and unmemorable part in Venom 2 that no doubt earned him a small fortune. I imagine his salary for Boiling Point was a fraction of nuppence. Yet his turn here will cement his growing reputation as a national treasure. As in last year’s devastating TV drama Help, Graham never coasts when it comes to technique. When he sweats, you can all but feel the air fry.
The rest of the cast are just as solid, with Vinette Robinson and Lauryn Ajufo especially compelling as Andy’s rock-solid sous chef, Carly and shy waitress Andrea respectively. The way Ajufo’s shoulder’s slump, infinitesimally, as Andrea is berated by a boorish and racist customer, tells us so much. Andrea knows that fine dining is akin to theatre and that her role, here, is to absorb vitriol. She becomes the invisible woman and the way Ajufo draws attention to that effacement is the very thing that marks her out as a face to watch.
Also entertaining is Aine Rose Daly as ultra middle-class Robyn, an aspiring actress and the eatery’s golden girl (in every way). S**t keeps hitting the fan, but none of it sticks to Robyn, who’s as shiny as Teflon. Anyone who’s ever waited on tables has known a Robyn (and seethed, slightly, as they watched her pocket all the best tips). She’s not a caricature; she’s a brilliantly observed archetype.
The third act is gut-wrenching. Some films leave you fed up. This one leaves you feeling well fed. Bon appétit.
92 mins, cert TBC. In cinemas