Boiling Point: Limited Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Second Sight
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (24th November 2022).
The Film

Andy Jones (Snatch's Stephen Graham) is the chef of trendy Dalston-area restaurant who lives on little sleep, a lot of adrenaline, and various kinds of uppers. As his personal life has started to fall apart around him, he has started becoming less dependable at work, with his staff compensating for him as the public face of the establishment. On this particular night, he steps into even greater chaos than usual with front of restaurant manager Beth (Save Me's Alice Feetham) revealing they are overbooked and have a special guest in Andy's former mentor celebrity chef Alastair Skye (Stealing Beauty's Jason Flemyng), loyal sous chef Carly (Imagine Me & You's Vinette Robinson) has been running interference with restaurant inspector Alan Lovejoy (Thomas Coombes) – who has already nitpicked the hygiene practices of outspoken meat chef Freeman (Colette's Ray Panthaki) and meek French immigrant pantry chef Camille (Mary Queen of Scots's Izuka Hoyle), as well as thrown out some expensive turbot due to it being labeled incorrectly – waitress Robyn (The Cursed's Αine Rose Daly) is late because of an audition, and dishwasher Jake (Daniel Larkai) is also late but this is nothing new to exasperated pregnant Sophia (The Souvenir: Part II's Gala Botero) who is used to doing twice the work. Just before the restaurant opens, Lovejoy reveals that he is downgrading the restaurant's rating based on his inspection and Skye arrives with his unannounced guest in TV critic Sara Southworth (No Time to Die's Lourdes Faberes). As the evening goes on, waitresses Robyn and Andrea (Lauryn Ajufo) trade off serving boorish, racist, sexist customer and his uncomfortable party, Beth and Carly get into a loud argument about sent back food and Beth throwing the kitchen staff under the bus to "cater" to various "influencer" customers, Skye lets backhanded compliments about Andy's food slip in front of Sara, and the note about a customer's nut allergy gets lost in the constant scramble.

Had Boiling Point – actor-turned-director Philip Barantini's follow-up to his feature debut Villain, and itself an expansion of his well-received short film – been made a decade or so ago, it might have been a "what else can go wrong" comedy. In this age of cutthroat cooking competitions and the vitriolic antics of chef/restauranteur Gordon Ramsay, the film is an intense look at the psychological effects of a high-pressure environment and how various kinds of people cope or crumble under the strain. Shot entirely in one semi-choreographed, semi-improvised take, the film may seem conventional in its setting up of a number of plot elements early on to pay off later. These dominoes do fall one after the other during the climax; however, the focus for the viewer is not so much on anticipation of the car crash and its scope, or even really on Andy's personal issues, but on the realization of just how illusory are Andy's authority as head chef and as a human being. When Sara – who is neither as cunning as Andy believes or as gullible as Skye believes – asks both men how they cope with the pressure, they both respond that a chef can be mediocre or totally incompetent so long as they are surrounded by a great team; and Andy is surrounded by such a team – apart from Jake whose unrepentant lack of consideration for anyone else makes him an easy target for channeling away everyone else's frustrations with Andy – all flawed but largely managing to support one another in the optimistic belief that Andy will keep them afloat in spite of his own increasingly apparent failings. Andy bellows but is genuinely sincere, calming flustered co-workers with encouragement and self-deprecation. He is actually the last to realize that his support is only on the surface, and there are only so many times he can say "sorry" and "it's my fault" – however truly accurate – before they become ultimately meaningless.

Carly does a great job at calming him down during his post-inspection rant at the staff; in contrast, he is almost a non-entity when Carly and Beth go at it, with a few "hey nows" and "calm downs" making it all the more apparent to everyone that he does, as Freeman accuses, always give in. He probably should have been the one voicing all of Carly's frustrations to Beth, but even without his issues at home, he may indeed be insulated from some of the pressure through the privilege of being the chef who the naοve believe actually cooks everything but really only supervises the plating (over Carly's shoulder) before it goes out. The seemingly principle villains in social media-minded Beth and celebrity chef Skye are ultimately revealed to be just as flawed and under pressure as any of the kitchen staff, with Beth revealing entirely offscreen just how surface deep is her confidence and Skye honestly believing that he is "pushing Andy towards greatness" with his criticisms albeit for his own reasons. The film ends the only way it can both as a one take film and a tale of psychological deterioration, winding down in the dark. A television series spinoff will go into production in 2023, and it will be interesting to see just how it means follow-up the film in continuing characters, similar themes, or an even further expanded iteration of the short and the film.


Shot with a Sony Venice camera in 6K and mastered in 4K, Boiling Point's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.40:1 widescreen encode seems to faithfully represent the film for all of its "rough edges." Shot in one take with rare follow focus issues and a couple digital fixes (discussed in the commentary), the film's augmented practical lighting is often low and some angles lack conventional fill lighting (with the focus on performance over glamour) while the areas of shadow are free of any distracting noise and were probably graded down from how much brighter they probably were on set.


English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 audio tracks are on offer. The nature of the film's shooting style and the intimate nature of the drama means that opportunities for flashy surround are limited, but dialogue is maintained in the center and the mix does steer some of the ambience and foley between the channels as characters move through the environment. The discrete mix feels a tad more "lively" but the downmix is serviceable. Optional English HoH subtitles are included.


Extras start off with an audio commentary by producers Hester Ruoff & Bart Ruspoli, and writer James Cummings in which Ruspoli discusses the origins of the short film in Barantini's past as a restaurant chef, their subsequent feature Villain, and their decision to make Boiling Point into a feature. Cummings discusses the concepts they tossed around for the feature version, including setting it on an oil rig or making it one story in an anthology set within a hotel – crediting cinematographer Matthew Lewis with the idea of carrying over the one take approach to the feature version – and Ruoff joins Ruspoli in discussing raising funds, casting – including who returned and what new actors Graham recommended including Robinson who he worked with on television – starting production just before lockdown and adapting the shoot to the pandemic.

The disc also includes an audio commentary by actors Jason Flemyng and Ray Panthaki in which they critique their own performances and their co-stars all in good humor – although Coombes apparently did wind up on the cover of a healthy and safety-related magazine for his role here – but also reveal a lot about the shoot including the fact that actors were often just out of camera shot because they were waiting for their cues to appear onscreen since there was no full script, just a bible with dialogue and action prompts.

In "Boiling Over" (21:42), producer Ruoff reveals that as an actress she had done plenty of table reads with Ruspoli and Barantini before being asked to produce the film. She reveals that the restaurant in the film belonged to the real life Andy Jones – from which Graham's character takes his name but nothing else – adapting the narrow space for the needs of the camera, and also provides a vivid picture of working on a film at the start of the pandemic and the bubble within which a lot of people operated pre-lockdown.

In "Pot Boiler" (19:54), producer Ruspoli recalls the idea to expand the short to a feature (using the short as "proof of concept"), and tossing round various ideas for just how to expand it as mentioned above. He recalls the panic about lockdown and the worry that the private equity financing would vanish, and how they adapted their original intention to shoot eight takes and pick the best one down to four, noting that Graham correctly identified which one was going to be the best just before they shot it.

In "Simmering Steady" (21:11), writer Cummings discusses the challenge of turning the short into a feature, trying to script dialogue for a single-take movie and realizing how banal it turned out, trying to emulate the atmosphere of a busy kitchen, coming up with a skeleton of a script and then workshopping it with the cast, adapting it to what they brought in, and then distilling that seventy-odd page script down to a few pages of prompts for the actors, as well as how Graham going "off script" resulted in some surprises.

"The Making of Boiling Point" (40:13) expands upon all of these discussions with the addition of Barantini, cinematographer Lewis, and several members of the cast and crew. The linear nature of the documentary's structure, however, allows us extensive looks at the shooting of the short and clips from it – revealing some of the original cast and suggesting that Jonas Armstrong's iteration of Freeman was a combination of the feature's character and that of Carly in talking Andy down – as well as a look at the workshops and table reads with actor Robbie O'Neill standing in for Graham to read against actors during the audition.


The disc is packaged in a rigid slipcase with new artwork by Andrew Bannister and comes with a 70-page softcover book with new essays by Howard Gorman, Clarisse Loughrey, Christina Newland, and Matthew Thrift, along with six collectors' art cards (none of which have been supplied for review).


Had Boiling Point been made a decade or so ago, it might have been a "what else can go wrong" comedy. In this age of cutthroat cooking competitions and the vitriolic antics of chef/restauranteur Gordon Ramsay, however, the film is an intense look at the psychological effects of a high-pressure environment and how various kinds of people cope or crumble under the strain.


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