On Friday, January 19, the fantastic drama “The Kitchen” was released on Netflix, becoming the feature-length directorial debut for the tandem of Kibwi Tavares and Daniel Kaluuya, better known for his acting work (“Black Panther”, “No”). In this review, we’ll figure out whether their endeavor can be considered successful and what this mysterious film, about which not much was known before the premiere, actually offers the viewer.
The story of the central characters is moderately fascinating; an attempt to make important social commentary; high-quality setting of London in the near future; good acting work
on an emotional level, the movie leaves you almost indifferent; minimal presence of a fantastic component; the general drag of the narrative is not always beneficial
“Kitchen” / The Kitchen
Genre fantasy drama
Directed by Kibwe Tavares, Daniel Kaluuya
Starring: Kane Robinson, Jediah Bannerman, Hope Ikpoku Jr., Teya Kabs, Demmi Ladipo, Ian Wright
Year of manufacture 2024
London, near future. Nestled among numerous developments and ready-to-go luxury homes is a squalid apartment complex known as The Kitchen. It consists predominantly of a black population who categorically refuse to leave their home, despite the total gentrification by the government in favor of all-conquering capitalism.
Constantly surrounded by police drones, which from time to time become victims of the entertainment of local punks, the complex experiences constant shutdowns of utilities and cannot offer residents comfortable living conditions. Moreover, it is subject to constant police raids, as a result of which some residents are forced to move out. But even under such sad circumstances, there is a vibrant life here, a feeling of universal unity, and one cheerful radio presenter is broadcasting.
Easy lives in one of the local shacks and works in an environmental funeral home. He plans to leave the Kitchen as soon as possible and get a nice one-room apartment, from the window of which the London Eye will be within easy reach. But one day a man meets a 12-year-old teenager, Benji, whose mother died the day before. Apparently, Izy had some kind of common past with her, so meeting a small person risks significantly affecting the life of a loner.
“The Kitchen” became the debut feature film for the British director and architect Kibwe Tavares and the famous Oscar-winning actor Daniel Kaluuya, whom you could see in many Hollywood films, in particular those directed by Jordan Peele. The influence of the latter is felt with the naked eye, because behind the fantastic setting of the future lies a clear social subtext. In addition, there is an attempt to distinguish himself to one degree or another in the territory of Mathieu Kassovitz and Spike Lee. By the way, one of the producers was Michael Fassbender.
But, unlike Peele, Tavares and Kaluuya do not try to disguise some hidden message or give out social satire in their dystopian plot. While the social commentary is obvious, at times it takes too much of a backseat to the central dramatic story of Easy and Benji’s relationship. These two are essentially strangers, perhaps even father and son, who by chance find each other. And at the same time, probably, the meaning of life.
The narrative develops slowly, and the fantastic component becomes nothing more than an auxiliary means for the development of an extremely mundane drama. There is not even a clearly defined conflict in the film, because systematic clashes between the residents of the Kitchen and the police are unlikely to achieve this status. The main conflicts occur within the characters.
“The Kitchen” is definitely not just another weekend entertainment premiere from Netflix. This is good, at least because weekly deliveries of monotonous clichéd stories risk causing an overdose (and even a harmful influence, as on the author of these lines, but let’s not talk about sad things). This, excuse the pun, is a completely sad and in every sense a gloomy movie, infinitely far from any ambitions to entertain the viewer, and therefore one that at least slightly diversifies the colorful Netflix catalog of new products.
The drama by Tavares and Kaluya, with the complicity of screenwriter Joe Murtha (Gangs of London, The Woman in the Wall), turned out not to be emotional, but surprisingly restrained.
The lion’s share of the main characters’ feelings is felt intuitively, without words. This allows you to follow their actions and relationships with a certain curiosity, but forces you to remain largely a detached observer. This will be enough for some, but others probably won’t like it.
Lead actor Kane Robinson, aka British rapper and songwriter Kano, wears a doleful face throughout the film, but it’s appropriate here. More surprising is young Jediah Bannerman, who brilliantly played a teenager with a tragic fate. You can also see in the frame English footballer Ian Wright, a former player for Arsenal, West Ham and the England national team, who turned into an ironic radio presenter.
Western critics unanimously declare that the creators managed to voice a topical statement for Great Britain regarding housing, but one can also see here meanings that are relevant to us. In fact, the long-suffering Kitchen is the same Ukraine, which a rabid enemy is trying to destroy in order to build something of its own on the blood and ruins. But even despite blackouts, incessant drones in the sky, missile attacks, etc. our society continues to function. Work and live as best you can.
“Kitchen” will clearly disappoint fans of purely fantasy cinema, because although the genre is performed at the proper level in the film, its presence is limited. The film can be carefully recommended to fans not so much of dystopias as of meditative dramas, where the endlessly sad look of the characters will be much more eloquent than any words.
Netflix is finally releasing something other than just another clichéd one-day weekend show, but the proposed alternative will also not appeal to everyone.