Why Boiling Point, Starring Stephen Graham, is a Misnamed Triumph

Sitting in the Duke’s Playhouse cinema in Lancaster waiting to watch Boiling Point I was surprised by the amount of people who turned up to watch it. The space was half-full for a 6:25 evening performance.

Only a couple of days before at the Vue I had watched the latest Spider-Man with far less people. In the case of Boiling Point all of us were rewarded by a brilliant 90 minute single take of an evening service in a, presumably but not necessarily, London, restaurant.

So brilliant is this single take that you forget that the camera has not switched off once and everything has played out in one go as if it was all being performed on a giant stage. The low lighting, the deliberately low volume level of the sound recording and the depth of the restaurant with its open kitchen were all exploited to maximum effect.

I encourage all chefs to go and see it because it is brilliantly done and highlights several key issues of the lives of chefs and front of house staff. But, and here’s the thing, the title does not do this film justice.

Reviewers have pounced on it as being a meltdown and with Boiling Point in mind I half expected to see Gordon Ramsay walk on set, strip off to put on his flawless white chefs jacket and take charge in his usual manner – ie, fire the culprits and have a go at the owners.

The fact is, though, that boiling point it is not. This is not a film about anger. The film cleverly reveals the emotional cracking point of a vulnerable and over-stretched chef as he tries to salvage a terrible service for which he is largely to blame.

As a former chef who had a nervous breakdown trying to run a small restaurant and catering company I saw myself so often in Graham’s exquisite performance: the lack of time for anyone else in his life, the promises broken, the let-down of fellow staff and the inability to be able to focus for more than five minute on anything important.

This is what is so heart-wrenchingly beautiful about all the performances. Every one of the major characters have a flaw they are trying to work out – whether it’s Andy played by Graham or Carly the exasperated and loyal sous chef played by Vinette Robinson who launches into a tirade mid-way through the film at manger Beth played by Alice Feetham. This rant got cheers and claps from the audience.

And that moment was when I realised that this was a piece of work that went far beyond the sensational title of Boiling Point. This was real life and everyone who has worked in a restaurant under pressure will recognise something truthful in it.

Reviewed by Chandos Elletson, The Chefs’ Forum Editor