Boiling Point review – Stephen Graham bubbles in one-shot restaurant drama

Philip Barantini serves up a single-take headlong nightmare in this drama set in a restaurant, starring the formidable Stephen Graham as an up-and-coming chef called Andy who is running on pure adrenaline, and maybe something more in that water bottle of his. Without any cuts to darkness or a camera flash, Barantini follows the dizzying continuous action in the kitchens and out in the dining room as the pressure begins to take its toll on everyone. And if it looks a bit like TV sometimes, that could be because cookery shows with stressed-out gobby chefs yelling at people are all over television. One of those shows was actually called Ramsay’s Boiling Point.

Andy is seen showing up ominously late for work one evening, talking on his mobile, trying to juggle some tricky situation in his disintegrating domestic life. Already, his highly professional support staff are dismayed at his behaviour and how they will be expected to cover up for him, even as he takes it out on members of the team junior to them. His trusted seniors are Carly (Vinette Robinson) and commis chef Freeman (Ray Panthaki). 同时, the front-of-house maitre d’ Beth (Alice Feetham) is far too ready to accommodate off-menu requests from annoying food influencers with big Instagram followings. There are many other plot-flavours in this seething stew, but the biggest nightmare is that Andy’s former boss, telly celebrity chef Alastair Skye (a fantastically unctuous Jason Flemyng) has chosen tonight of all nights to show up, bringing with him sleek food critic Sara Southworth (Lourdes Faberes); for all Alastair’s fame he is none too pleased at how well his former protege appears to be doing. Could his appearance be some sort of implied threat?

The awful truth is that Andy’s business, like his life, is hanging by a thread. Like a sulky schoolkid, Andy has had to begin the evening by listening to a sorrowing lecture from a food inspector who is less than happy with the state of the hygiene and the dodgy bookkeeping. Andy knows that he has to keep the restaurant going through sheer chutzpah, fronting it out at all times, although this is the attitude that might well bring the whole thing crashing down.

There’s lots of drive here and the pace doesn’t flag: it actually becomes most interesting when there isn’t anything obviously dramatic happening, just the ambient atmosphere of the kitchen and Geiger counter tick of jittery nervous energy. But there are a fair few stagey arguments and shouting matches that I felt were a bit too obvious. It’s possible to wonder if there is going to be a big twist, a big reveal, an unexpected dimension to the characterisation: like the annoying Alastair Skye, who insists on asking for a ramekin dish of za’atar to sprinkle over his risotto, you might wonder if the action somehow needs a little bit extra. In fact the explosively potent Graham does deliver a colossal, intimate ending, acted with complete and affecting sincerity. He has presence, potency and force.

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