A busy restaurant sees tensions rise along with the heat as one thing after another leads inevitably to a boiling point. Philip Barantini has created something special in the feature-length version of Boiling Point (2021), a one-shot drama-filled night which leaves you on the edge of your seat wondering when things will finally go too far and it will all fall apart.
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The film opens on an ominous, almost silent (for a busy city side-street setting at least) scene as our lead Stephen Graham of Snatch (2000) (and, more recently, Line of Duty (2012 – 2021)) fame makes a phone call, before entering the restaurant we quickly come to realise is his.
Boiling Point eschews the training wheels
If I were to congratulate the film on anything, above all else, it would be the mastery of ‘show don’t tell’. At no point did I feel as though I, as the audience, was being spoken to directly, and thus being talked down to.
In an age where even the many mature pieces might as well have “for ages 3 and up” as a tagline given how heavily the pipework is laid at times, this was a very welcome relief.
‘Fly on the Wall’ style filming and its merits
Graham is impeccable, as indeed is most of the cast. Every performance felt real, because presumably that was their direction.
No one acts as if they are acting, so to speak. That said, this “real-life esque” performance style did occasionally result in somewhat conversational delivery, lines overlapping, etc, which in a film format felt a bit out of place.
A minor quirk which, given the style of filming, did not detract, and is restrained enough to complement the director’s goal: that being the one-shot POV camera style, and lending the film as much reality as possible.
Even as the camera swoops around and follows people unnaturally, we can easily suspend our disbelief, and I have rarely found myself watching anything that has felt as “real” as Boiling Point (2019).
Characters are not screaming constantly, and indeed do not just get more angry over time. Their emotions are very human, very natural; they calm down over time whilst still keeping that anger bottled away inside. If I was to give it a name, it would be a very literal fly on the wall style.
Given the difficulties of the filming style, it’s excellently paced
This approach is accomplished by the performances, yes, but above all the writing and pacing.
Boiling Point is a masterpiece of pacing.
I did not feel for a moment that even a second was wasted, a true accomplishment given the non-stop filming style.
Never did a scene hang on for too long. No silences were punctuated too deeply and the inevitable tirades dragged out just long enough to feel like they matched up to the level of frustration of the character in question.
The performances in particular are great at furthering ‘show-don’t-tell’, revealing information naturally. There was, as stated, no moment where I expected a character to turn to the camera and explain what they meant just to make sure nobody in the back rows was falling behind.
Nothing’s perfect, but this comes close
One criticism I have revolves around a celebrity chef, a former partner of Graham’s, who we are told will appear later on, yet who appears far later than expected.
As a result, when a rude customer sits down and begins to order with their family, I naturally assumed this man was the celebrity chef dining with his family until later when the real one appeared.
Granted, I can’t see any way around this given the natural style of filming chosen, but all the same it did cause some confusion.
All throughout, Barantini excellently builds the tension, dropping hints here and there as things go wrong.
We start to see how none of the issues they face alone would be enough to sink things, but collectively, as said fly on the wall, we get to see the total sum of the challenges the restaurant faces on a busy night.
The climax of the film is not spectacular, rather a very realistic, quite meaningful if subdued affair. Leaning heavily on the tension and realism built up over the course of the film, it lends an otherwise humdrum affair a much greater level of gravity and drama.
A true achievement in narrative filmmaking
I give Boiling Point (2021) a very strong recommendation to everyone, especially those who are fans of the dramatic cooking TV chef phenomenon Gordon Ramsay, whose TV series this film is presumably taking its name after: Gordon Ramsay’s Boiling Point (1998).
This film is a true achievement in narrative filmmaking, and a welcome reprieve all the same.
BOILING POINT is in cinemas on November 19, 2021 and on digital and on demand Nov. 23, 2021.
Editor & Artwork: Richard Williams
Writer and editor from the north of Scotland, lifelong movie enthusiast. Always looking for an unseen classic, watching something new every day.