Belfast, Boiling Point, and the BIFAs

Stephen Graham in Philip Barantini’s Boiling Point (2021)

With eleven nominations each, Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast and Philip Barantini’s Boiling Point would seem to be running neck and neck in the race for this year’s British Independent Film Awards. A second glance, though, reveals that Barantini’s single-take heart-stopper has the edge over Branagh’s black-and-white ode to the city of his childhood. Boiling Point is in the running for best film, director, and screenplay. Belfast is not.

Barantini, a writer, director, producer, and actor whose face you may recognize from such prestigious series as Band of Brothers and Chernobyl, has turned his 2019 short into a full ninety-minute feature. He has Matthew Lewis’s camera follow Andy (Stephen Graham), the head chef at an upscale London restaurant, for one continuous shot on the last Friday night before Christmas. Hungover, Andy arrives to discover that the evening has been overbooked; his culinary mentor has shown up unannounced with his partner, a renowned food critic; and a health inspector is roaming the kitchen.

Boiling Point roils with “a dizzy array of courses, characters, and subplots that range from plausibly high-stakes to wildly contrived,” writes Guy Lodge in Variety. “Even at its most far-fetched, however, Boiling Point retains an essential sense of integrity thanks to the honest, urgent presence of star Stephen Graham. Utterly compelling as an overburdened head chef whose mood swings and spiraling breakdowns never tip over into performative, Ramsay-style showboating, Graham evidently relishes biting into a rare big-screen lead worthy of his talent.”

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