I realise it’s early days, but “if a more stressful film” than Boiling Point comes along this year, “I would be most surprised”, said Deborah Ross in The Spectator. Filmed in a single continuous take, it stars that “powerhouse” of an actor Stephen Graham as Andy, the head chef and part-owner of a hot London restaurant. Andy’s staff “respect and like him”, but we can see something “broken” about him, “and are on it, asking ourselves: ‘Can he hold it together, or will he implode? That water bottle he is always clutching. Is it water?’”
Jangling with nervous energy, Andy tries to get on with his work, but his customers don’t help: there’s a racist table, a trio of influencers who insist on ordering off-menu, a woman with a severe nut allergy (“hello, Chekhov’s gun”), and a poisonous celebrity chef (Jason Flemyng) who demands a ramekin of za’atar to go with his risotto; it’s “98% there”, he tells the chef. With an improvised feel, the film is as “tense as a thriller”.
It’s to director Philip Barantini’s credit that I frequently forgot I was watching a one-shot film, said Mark Kermode in The Observer. It is “utterly immersive, conjuring the raw experience of an inexorably accelerating panic attack”. But like the 2015 German thriller Victoria, which was also filmed in one take, this is “first and foremost a gripping and gritty drama”.
Graham is superb as a man on the edge, said Tim Robey in The Daily Telegraph, but there is “great, frazzled acting” from the supporting cast too, especially Vinette Robinson, who plays an overburdened sous-chef. The one off-note is the ending, which tries to make a “hard-hitting impact” but doesn’t quite succeed. That aside, this is a brilliant film that exerts a remorseless grip.