Realistic Clock Ticking Thriller
See It Or Skip It: See It
2021 is almost over. We have seen quite a few accomplishments. I’ll acknowledge that strides have been made in the pandemic but I can only offer a grin. A grin, not a smile. It’s been brutal. 2021 felt like an entire lifetime looking back on it. People’s true colors really come out in the midst of chaos and crises. You learn certain things about people and establishments, things you’d rather not know. You learn what’s really truly important to people, what their top priority is. In the workplace, safety and mentally healthy wellbeing should be the top priority... It isn’t.
When I say you learn about an establishment's true colors, I’m not referring to management who have to do and do their best to follow covid protocol. I’m referring to those people on the outside coming into an establishment or place of business. The people who don’t want peace. Whether it be a restaurant, a hotel, a spa, a department store, a bank, etc. Working in customer service is literally a form of parenting. Sometimes, it can be very rewarding. It gives you such purpose and stability and you can provide people with some truly memorable moments and experiences. Other times, you feel like a failure. You feel like nothing you do is going to make a difference because you just know the kinds of people coming through the door. You know what they’re after, you know what they want: Drama in whatever form that is. Maybe they just want to complain because they’re so unhappy they look for anything to pick at or maybe they’re not well because they haven’t been vaccinated and they cough and make no attempt to cover or wash their hands or anything that implies they take care of themselves. I would think that most of us who work in customer service deal with it professionally of course. We’re all very poised and collected but on the inside there are cracks and now as we’re transitioning out of 2021 into 2022, those cracks are starting to show. We wonder how much more we’re willing to put up with. How much of what we encounter is reflected in the growing dangers that we hear of every day? We’re starting to reach our limit. Many of us are ready for the storm. Many of us have reached our breaking point.
Boiling Point is a superbly edited film that perfectly illustrates exactly where we customer service workers are right now. It’s called Boiling Point for a reason. A breaking point is not that far away but right now, it is just a boiling point: Our hearts are beating a little faster, we feel cold and hot at the same time from the stress and there’s some sort of loudness only we seem to be hearing. We talk very fast in the back because we’re trying to get everything done right on schedule.
Shot brilliantly in one take, Boiling Point follows head chef Andy Jones (Stephen Graham) and his employees over the course of 90 minutes on a busy December night at one of London’s most popular restaurants. Overbooked, they must contend with a passive-aggressive health inspector, rude guests, and lack of certain supplies. There are just certain things about Boiling Point’s atmosphere that make it feel like a documentary even though it is very much a feature film. It just felt no different from what many many workdays are like now for me and for many other people I’ve come to know. Going nonstop, you make it through intact but in the long run, the expected reliability of our willingness to engage with those who shouldn’t be there has become ridiculous. There’s always going to be a little drama and that’s fine, that’s expected but this year has made things so different, it’s just so out there.
Originally, there were going to be 8 attempts at filming, twice per evening for four days in March 2020, just as Covid was escalating in the UK. After the first day, Stephen 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. Employees had reason to be stressed before covid, during covid and it’s still ongoing.
Rude guests are the crust of a pie that’s been long overbaked. The rude guests of Boiling Point come in many varieties. Pretentious Instagram food influencers who insist on dishes not from the menu, an impatient man who arrogantly but flirtatiously accepts that it’s busy when a blond attractive white girl takes his wine order and gets snappy when a young black woman brings it over. Eventually, the impatience of one table makes the staff forget an allergy accommodation, and an ambulance is called. As a breathing mask is put over the woman’s mouth, I couldn’t stop thinking that it’s the staff who really need it. To work is to swim underwater for them.
How all the stress is dealt with is another mess entirely. There’s crying in the bathroom, hidden flasks of alcohol consumption, and giving in to the most privileged of requests just to silence the whining. One of the chefs is pregnant and has to deal with all the chaos whilst growing someone inside her. Andy’s most loyal employee, sou chef Carly (Vinette Robinson) is blamed for the allergy emergency despite Andy’s insistence it’s not her fault and the responsibility of caring for his staff (Whom he truly does care for) prove too much to bear by the end of the night. Plates are smashed, words are screamed, tears are shed and fainting spells take over.
Imagine being required to have your sleeves rolled up because you're a pastry chef and so you have to cook with your self-harm scars being on full display to your co-workers. This horrifying scene in particular really speaks to how the working class is treated. For things to get so hard, to cut makes you feel some kind of release. Many of the guests in Boiling Point look down on the staff and there are moments of absolute cruelty that are so normalized when you just realize that these people could never do what the staff does every night. They’re mentally abused regularly simply for trying to fulfill requests.
These guests have no idea what it takes to do this kind of work and how much they really rely on these workers. I’d love to hear them be told “If you think it’s so easy and you know everything about it, fine. Do it yourself”. This is a breaking point response and most workers can’t afford to give breaking point responses or have breaking point thoughts. It’s when we do have them that we have to swallow and repress the stress. Look at all the flight attendants being attacked on planes or baristas getting scalding coffee thrown in their face because they had to ask someone to wear a mask. People, our fellow citizens have been shot and killed in department stores and fast-food drive-thrus. These are the people who no one cares about. Not enough. Why because of entitlement and the driving need for instant gratification. Common decency is gone and I do not know if it will ever come back.
For all the commotion on display, Boiling Point is a very hard film to turn away from. It’s not entertainment in terms of enjoyment (Not for the kind of people it tries to support anyway) but it does operate like a clock-ticking thriller in a realistic fashion. People love reality cooking shows with heightened drama. Most people will watch Boiling Point and get the satisfaction they get when watching any food show with Gordon Ramsay.
Customer Service providers will feel the love from the filmmakers behind the lens. If you work in customer service, Boiling Point will make you feel seen. You may think you're doing ok but you never know what’s really going on until boiling points turn to breakpoints. All glass shatters eventually. Any moment now...
Radish, C. (2021). Stephen_graham_-_boiling_point.jpg. Stephen Graham on 'Boiling Point,' Filming the Entire Movie In a 90-Minute Non-Stop Take, and What the ‘Venom 2’ Ending Could Mean. Collider. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from https://collider.com/stephen-graham-boiling-point-venom-2-ending-toxic-interview/.