“I can’t give you what I haven’t got.”
I can’t remember the last time I left a film feeling the way I did after watching Boiling Point, one of 2021’s best and most overlooked films. It was a Saturday around 3 AM, I was entirely restless after falling asleep early, and I thought I might as well start a new picture that peaked all of my own interests. I tried but literally couldn’t turn this one off. Boiling Point goes to the edge of insanity, is brilliantly written and plated, and it deeply understands the personal costs of pursuing perfection along the way. This is sublime cinema and carefully staged theatre shaken and stirred with expert precision. I’m still baffled by its greatness. Something this ambitious rarely ever pays off, but what a damn fine meal it is.
From the start, Andy Jones (a welterweight man packing a towering performance from Stephen Graham) maneuvers through London side streets while apologizing on the phone to his ex. We can tell he doesn’t really mean what he says. He’s consumed by his restaurant and everyone in his personal life is little more than an appetizer to his refined palette. But Andy is on the brink. He forgets orders, loses product due to lack of labeling, and can barely command this slowly sinking ship. That a health inspector arrives unannounced before one of their busiest days, and docks them from a 5 star to a 3, only increases the pressure. Boiling Point builds with ease and great observation. It reeks of authenticity, flavor, and sheer humanity. I wouldn’t add a gram of salt or a pinch of pepper; it’s that refined.
A surprise visit from foe/friend but mostly financier Alastair Skye (Jason Flemyng) goes topsy turvy. Andy points fingers even when he’s wrong. He shouts, reprimands staff, and tries to teach on the spot. He’s a sorry apologist from beginning to end; his shaky hands try to demonstrate opening an oyster but are far from the restaurant’s gold standard. Those little details show how Andy’s under the gun, and Boiling Point is the type of film that builds with great momentum from start to finish. There’s no need for an amuse-bouche when the experience is this thrilling and holds us in its pocket from the intoxicating start to the sobering finale. Most of all though, Boiling Point builds its characters up even when it tears them down, allowing the conflicting personalities to clash and blend and flirt and heal. You won’t leave hungry. Philip Barantini couldn’t have served up anything more well rounded.
This is a Golden Corral in every sense of the name. It’s technically honed and harnessed, understands fine dining, and still brings the kind of drama knowable by all audiences. It’s so precise without feeling too perfected, so didactic and organic and exacting. It’s controlled without feeling steered like a student driver car, and I genuinely think it’s a masterful work that’s been finely tuned to bring this vision to life. To have everything this planned and prepped going into a process with mise en place for all of the mise en scene is stunning. The staging is brilliant, to the point you become convinced this play is still unfolding even when the camera leaves the confines of the screen, like when trash is taken out or guests are facing pressing issues outside. Boiling Point is a war film for our modern times. And the conflicting enemy is perfection. The cost varies from cover to cover, with the hospitality industry becoming more insufferable by the day, and Boiling Point shows how cooking and plating and serving is akin to a dance, and that all factions must function as one. It’s a remarkable ballet of a film.
“I wanna stop, I really wanna stop.”
Rating: 5 out of 5