Moviegoers may recognize Stephen Graham from his roles as an American paratrooper in Band of Brothers and – again – an American gangster in Boardwalk Empire, one of those English actors who can play an American character better than an American.
A smallish man with a Bull Terrier face and a worn, rough and tumble look to him, Graham appeared at home in the depths of the American Depression and trenches of World War II. In Boiling Point, he is Chef Andy Jones, an English chef with a reputation and a restaurant he is trying to hold onto even while everything seems to be collapsing around him.
Graham’s weathered appearance serves him well as director Philip Barantini turns him loose in a single-take (a real one, not a 1917 wannabe) journey around his London restaurant on the worst night of his life. Comfortable on the battlefield, Graham is doing less well this night, beset by an opening phone call questioning his parenting skills and walking into a restaurant teetering like a prizefighter and in danger of going down for good.
Just when you think things can’t get any worse for a single dad trying to run a high-profile, tempestuous business and keep its small army of disparate personalities together long enough to get dinner out to a legion of slavering, uneducated, bigoted horde of customers – things do.
With the camera capturing every hunted expression, every disbelieving “Is this really happening to me?” eye flicker, Graham plods through a minefield of culinary setbacks, repairing sauces and relationships with equal impatience, hitting off a questionable “water bottle” and looking like a man waiting for a bus to hit him. Feuding employees. Surfacing drug problems. A self-harming kitchen boy and – ewwww – Americans, the hits just keep on coming for Chef Andy, never mind that the turbot has gone off.
NOTE: Originally there were going to be eight attempts at filming, twice per evening for four days in March 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was escalating in the UK. After the first day, Graham and the producers decided it was too dangerous to have so many people together, so filming was cut short to just two days, resulting in only four takes – the third of which was used for the final film.
Why We Liked It: An unflinching look at the barely controlled insanity of a working kitchen and the dramas playing out behind the line as well as in the dining room. Stephen Graham looks like a man on the edge and ready to blow.
British. A lot of “Fock“-bombing earned the film its R-rating.