Obviously a pre- Covid Christmas. The film was shot in one continuous 90 minute take. the best of four over two days, just before lockdown closed all film production down in March 2020. Post production was done remotely. It was a situation which may well have added to the palpable tension in the film.
The “one take movie” has been done before, one of the most notable examples being Russian Ark, shot in the Winter Palace Heritage Museum in St Petersburg in 2002. But these two are rare examples. And as a technique for reflecting the nature of life both “backstage” in the kitchen and out front in the restaurant itself, the one take option here works beautifully.
Stephen Graham plays Andy, the head chef and a man with problems – personal, booze and drugs. His evening starts with a sticky meeting with an irritatingly nit picking health and safety officer. And it’s a tense ride from then onwards.
Barantini developed the feature from his earlier short film, which concentrated entirely on Andy. Now though the camera takes us around the restaurant exploring the experiences of the staff and customers as well, through a diversely cast group of characters reflecting the reality of today’s London.
Most notable is Andy’s loyal and overworked number two Carly (Vinette Robinson), who keeps the show on the road when Andy starts to lose it. While one member of staff takes refuge in the toilet to hide her tears, waitress Beth (Alice Feetham) has her charm stretched to the limit by a stroppy customer; the bossy maitre or rather maitresse de (Hannah Walters) gets up everyone’s nose and Andy has some tense encounters with his former business partner (Jason Flemyng). Oh and one of the customers collapses and is taken away by ambulance.
For the actors the one take technique was akin to a live theatre performance, only with the ever present camera following you instead of the audience. And though there was a “bullet point” detailed outline to keep the story on track, they created their own characters in workshop sessions and improvised their own dialogue. The result is an unusual, pacey film with an exciting sense of immediacy about it. Barantini is a director to watch and I look forward to whatever he comes up with next.