The Kitchen | Review by: Amanda Guarragi
When films highlight a dystopian society, they often express the disservice the government has placed on its people. We believe in a futuristic society, the world would be different. That community would be financially stable and flourish in an ever-changing economy. That people would be able to live fruitfully and enjoy their lives. Sadly, that’s the future we all crave, but we cannot find it in reality or fiction. Dystopian stories like The Kitchen, directed by Daniel Kaluuya and Kibwe Tavares, give a raw perspective of how broken government systems can be, no matter the period. In this narrative, all social housing in London has been eliminated, and the pocket of people called “The Kitchen” refuses to leave their homes because they have nowhere else to go. They are raided and uprooted from their homes for not complying with the government. Tavares and Kaluuya highlight the harshness of these conditions for the working class and how difficult it is to improve that quality of life.
In Kaluuya’s directorial debut, he incorporates so much of his swag and love of music to make a film uniquely his. After following Kaluuya for quite some time, his UK roots shine bright in everything he does, and that presence is carried out in this film. Tavares and Kaluuya co-direct an emotional story between Izi (Kano) and Benji (Jedaiah Bannerman). Izi works at a funeral home, but since it’s in the future, the deaths of loved ones are regenerated into new plants. So, instead of a mausoleum filled with coffins on the walls, there are plants that take the place of the deceased. Izi works outside of “The Kitchen,” when he sees Benji walk in on the day of his mother’s funeral, he seems unusually sad. The link between Izi and Benji is questioned throughout the film, but the issue is that it is too on the nose. There’s an assumption that Izi knew Benji’s mother and that his father was revealed too early on for there to be any anticipation for that final reveal.
Even though the construction of the dystopian “Kitchen" was well done, nothing felt grounded in the world created. The story revolved around a grieving teenager who was trying to find his place after his mother passed. Benji finds people protesting against the government and joins them. He feels part of a community that will look after him instead of being neglected by Izi. The back and forth isn’t strong enough to carry the film for the runtime and does begin to drag about halfway through. For a story about a father possibly finding his son and struggling with the idea of being a supportive father, it lacked emotional weight for its characters. It became repetitive, and the arguments between Izi and Benji caused Benji to make questionable decisions. Because Benji already knew that Izi was his biological father, that’s where the film lost intrigue and ultimately fell apart. It was obvious that the final realization between them was the big moment towards the end, but the build-up was weak.
The Kitchen is a film that shows the early potential of Daniel Kaluuya as a director. He infused this world with every fibre of what makes him one of the most unique people in the industry. Sadly, the issues lie with the screenplay that Kaluuya also co-wrote with Joe Murtagh. There are elements of the UK and African culture embedded in the story, which made it special for Kaluuya, but the events that transpire aren’t as engaging as one might have hoped. The focus on Benji grieving and making poor decisions needed to be developed more to make his story with Izi compelling. The relationship between Izi and Benji causes unexpected dullness throughout the film when those moments should have been the strengths. Unfortunately, it feels like a film we’ve watched many times, even though it’s an original story. Kaluuya’s love for his culture and music makes this uniquely his, and he has the potential as a director in the future to craft a more intriguing film with his vision.
Review by: Amanda Guarragi
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