It’s no coincidence that the latest feature from actor-turned-director Philip Barantini shares its name with a documentary mini-series fronted by potty mouthed cook Gordon Ramsay. Developed from a short version from a couple of years ago, Boiling Point unfolds across an incredibly hectic evening at a high-end London eatery, centring around head chef Andy (Stephen Graham) who’s taken his desperate personal problems into the workplace. Between an inspection from food hygiene jobsworth Mr Lovejoy (Thomas Coombes), a surprise visit from pompous former employer Alastair (Jason Flemyng), and other unexpected challenges, the increasing stress of the occasion begins to weigh down on him.
Amazingly, this intimate story is told in a single, continual take, and that is a technical achievement in itself. Stalking and swirling through the restaurant, the jittery camera soaks up the atmosphere of the pressure-cooker ambience Barantini has superbly crafted. The narrative spins a lot of plates, with little microcosm subplots simmering away such as waitresses Robyn and Andrea’s very differing experiences with an obnoxious, misogynistic customer, commis Freeman’s protectiveness of his lamb dish, and the quiet suffering of Ollie as he perfects a recipe in the backroom. These nuanced storytelling threads are just as impactful as the larger, fierier, plot points but with so much going on simultaneously, the script never loses its relentless momentum.
Expressing a multitude of emotions throughout the piece, the lead role of Andy really allows Stephen Graham to showcase his range. Whether he is barking orders at staff in his unmistakable Scouse brogue or just silently reacting to the flurry of activity around him, it’s a powerhouse of a performance. His already established connections with the supporting cast aid the authenticity of his on-screen relationships, as he reunites with three Save Me co-stars and his wife Hannah Walters has a small part to play too. As Andy’s loyal but exasperated number two Carly, Vinette Robinson turns in an excellent portrayal of someone pretending to have their act together but who is actually as much at her wits end as everyone around her; this culminates in a brilliantly delivered rant as the kitchen’s conflict with maitre d’ Beth inevitably comes to a head.
A viscerally intense vision of frenetic anxiety with a top-of-his-game Stephen Graham at the forefront of the turmoil, Philip Barantini’s Boiling Point is a compelling one-shot wonder.