Director: Philip Barantini
Cast: Stephen Graham, Jason Flemyng, Ray Panthaki, Hanna Walters, Malachi Kirby, Vinette Robinson, Alice Feetham, Taz Skylar, Izuka Hoyle, Lourdes Faberes
Runtime: 1 hr 32 mins
Rating: M18 (Coarse Language And Some Drug Use)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 19 May 2022
Synopsis: Certified 99% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes — Enter the relentless pressure of a restaurant kitchen as a head chef (Stephen Graham) wrangles his team on the busiest day of the year.
The next time you are served food at a fancy eatery, take a moment to think about the possible hellish events that are taking place behind the scenes. This gripping movie doesn’t offer the most captivating storyline (what’s so interesting about the drama and arguments between restaurant staff?), but you have to watch the story unfold on screen to experience the power of this superbly made film.
Set in a London restaurant, we follow head chef Andy Jones (English actor Stephen Graham delivering one of the most committed performances we’ve seen in a while) as he goes through a very, very bad day at work. We first see him on the phone apologising profusely for neglecting his son, before coming face to face with a health inspector who had just downgraded his eatery because the paperwork hasn’t been done properly.
That’s just the beginning of a nightmarish series of events. It’s going to be a busy night at the restaurant - while it’s good business, it also means people are going to be overworked. Amongst the guests are a celebrity chef that Andy used to work for, a food critic he has brought along, a dude who is planning to propose to his girlfriend who is allergic to nuts (you know something bad is going to happen), a group of influencers who want steak instead of the items of the curated menu, a racist diner who turns ugly when his family is served by a black waiter. Phew, that already sounds like a lot to handle.
Then we have the kitchen staff and the service crew who are like your co workers from work. There is the restaurant manager that nobody likes, the capable second in charge chef who always clears the sh** caused by others, the skiving dishwasher who doesn’t feel bad about making his pregnant colleague work more, and the many waiters who are trying very hard everyday to tell themselves that they love the job.
So you can imagine the immense pressure that Andy is under. Filmed entirely in one take, director Philip Barantini has made a 92 minute movie that is more intense than many other thrillers we’ve seen. This means that whatever you’re watching is unfolding in real time. There is no music score, and the soundtrack is made up of the diners’ chatters and the restaurant staff’s dialogues.
And thanks to the ensemble cast members’ perfect portrayals of their characters, you remember and feel for everyone, regardless of whether of the screen time they have. You’ll want to get to know the characters: there is a young chef who has reservations of rolling up his sleeves (the scene where the reason is revealed is truly moving), a new chef from France who is trying to make sense of the system, a blonde waitress who shows up late at work and shares enthusiastically how she hopes to be selected after going for an audition, and a gay waiter who works in another bar as a deejay.
There is always something to learn about the characters, and as the evening progresses, you have a (bad) feeling something unfortunate is going to happen in the claustrophobic space. And when the finale hits, you’ll be wondering how bad your day at work really was.
(Emotionally resonant and superbly-acted, this is a gripping human drama told in one take)
Review by John Li