The new restaurant film starring Stephen Graham clearly wants to say something about its world, but never really opens its mouth
Boiling Point is both a version of the reality of restaurants and a high-octane, deliberately exaggerated drama. Boiling Point
Boiling Point has to work harder than most restaurant films before service even begins. Dramas centred around the fine dining genius chef (Burnt, the upcoming Taste of Hunger) can use rareified cuisine like a crutch, treating food like art to convince audiences that they should treat the films like art too. That’s less true of a low-lit, Instagram-influencer attracting kitchen in the trendy part of town, where Old Fashioneds come in coupe glasses and celebrity chefs are glib wankers. We’ve been here before — even if it was about 10 years ago.
Boiling Point’s commitment to a warts-and-all picture of a restaurant, front to back included hiring consultant chefs, including Cornerstone’s Tom Brown. This push for recognisable verisimilitude — the appearance, not presence, of truth that much art aspires to — can start to blur lines between fiction and documentary, and more diners can see in this fictional restaurant a version of a real one than in Burnt and its brigade; more chefs can see a kitchen they’ve worked and more front-of-house staff a floor they’ve walked.
But fiction this is. Directed by Philip Barantini and filmed in Dalston’s Jones & Sons, it opens with the hoariest drama cliché in the book — overworked father apologising for missing crucial child’s event. It continues with environmental health inspector (Thomas Coombes) telling chef-owner Andy (Stephen Graham) his restaurant has dropped from 5/5 to a 3/5 because “in the last couple of months, there’s lots of gaps”: The most telegraphed possible metaphor for Andy’s decline as chef and father. There’s a third act crisis; a busted redemption and a literally unbelievable ending; staff gossip and gripe. Ambulance sirens, hints of romance, punches thrown, pans dropped. Chefs are not paid enough; chefs do and drink too much.
In dramatising almost everything a restaurant can endure in just 90 minutes, Boiling Point is necessarily full to the brim, losing the more realistic accumulation of pressure and grievances over service after service that a television drama can earn. But that is the bind of a piece of fiction clearly trying to say something about real restaurants in the real world in a very unrealistic time-frame. A service in which nothing happened might be more truthful. It would also be extremely boring.
Carly, played by Vinette Robinson, and Andy, Stephen Graham, with Freeman, played by Ray Panthaki behind Boiling Point
To try to seal this precarious deal, Boiling Point employs a single tracking shot: a camera that at first glance follows everything, stalking the cast. It’s “nerve-jangling”; it’s “claustrophobic”; it’s “incendiary”;