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MOVIES: LFF 2023 - The Kitchen - Review

The Kitchen is the debut film from actor turned director Daniel Kaluuya, working with Kibwe Tavares for a near-future dystopian drama set in a London tower block where the gap between rich and poor has stretched to its limits. As the last bastion of social housing left, the Kitchen regularly feels the wrath of government raids – and can only survive at the behest of a collective working together, for divided they fall. Yet not everyone mixes in with the idea of a community – the lone wolf, Kane Robinson’s Izi – would prefer to look after himself and his own skin, working at a sinister funeral facility where people’s remains are turned into plants for the environment – and it’s his job to sell upgrades to them.

The world-building though, is refreshingly secondary to the character work. Kane Robinson – excellent in Top Boy, even better here – is stellar across the board, and paired up against Jedaiah Bannerman, as Benji in his debut, the chemistry is excellent at depicting the struggles of the age gap and what is left unsaid; we all know both are likely father and son – yet they just don’t want to say it aloud. The quiet bond that forms between the two allows Bannerman to bring maturity to the proceedings as Benji is forced to grow up, jumping headfirst into the Kitchen and learning the rules – who to mix with, who not to. There’s a lot to draw from as the film proudly embraces the culture of the Kitchen as opposed to the world-building, Wyatt Garfield’s cinematography really bringing out the highlights of the film’s look and colour: it’s a vibrant world that feels alive and truly lived in. Ultimately – it succeeds in feeling real.

What’s perhaps notable about the supporting cast is the excellent turn by Ian Wright – Arsenal legend – who brings a real air to the proceedings by playing a DJ who brings the heart and soul to The Kitchen – playing tracks and encouraging the support of local community. It’s a film about community and adversary through triumph, ultimately – and Wright is the voice of the piece. It reminds you of Richard C. Sarafan’s Vanishing Point, with Robinson taking on the role of Kowalski – and Wright’s performance really feels alive with energy, overshadowing all. Yet the coming of age tale for Benji is where The Kitchen shines – allowing him to discover riding with gangs, first love – and then have it all ripped away; as you’re left wondering whether Izi will make the same decisions that he always does.

The Kitchen then – wears its heart on its sleeve. It’s raw, powerful and a rallying cry – scarily contemporary in its condemnation of the government but also a love letter to London in the process. The city feels alive – its heart and soul is bustling with energy – and the divide between the rich and poor has never felt more clear as it has done here. This is ultimately illustrated perfectly during a daring high stakes heist in the third act – where the film comes alive, tense – high-stakes and brutal. Yet to its credit the film never gets bogged down in the sci-fi of it all – a social realist piece first and foremost, with some excellent character work.

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