The Kitchen is Daniel Kaluuya’s directorial debut. A movie about making it out of the hood. The Get Out actor showed us a dream that is close to the hearts of many.
The Kitchen features Top Boy star Kane Robinson (aka Kano) as the lead character Izi. The setting is a dark and futuristic version of London, which is quite fitting for a filmmaker who made his big breakthrough as an actor in Black Mirror. The story focuses on a ghetto occupied by people from the bottom of society. Leading actor Kano plays a desperate man who plans to make it out of the kitchen at all costs.
Daniel talked to GQ and expressed his thoughts about The Kitchen in detail. I liked his words about the dehumanisation of his people and how he intends for his movie to humanise them. The writer observed that in The Kitchen ‘there is no why, to the oppression and the violence that befalls the residents’. The essence of Daniel’s response is the why, is a privilege that these people don’t get. The people of The Kitchen don’t get to know why bad things are happening to them. They just have to deal with them.
“All the people I grew up with are gone, have left the estate that I grew up in. I was one of the last people that stayed”– Daniel Kaluuya, GQ Interview
Casting Ian Wright was an interesting choice. Fans of his will be happy to see him play Lord Kitchener, the Pirate Radio broadcaster. This may lead to a whole new career for the ex-professional footballer. I found an interview with Wrighty, which delves deeper into his personal experience of The Kitchen.
Another good choice was bringing in Labyrinth to work on the soundtrack. The Radio Times interviewed The Kitchen’s Co-Director Kibwe Tavares about his sonic aesthetic. When you look at the track listing, some of the artists look like they come from a Kitchen version of London. I recall hearing the likes of Ruff Squad and Donae’o during the movie too. Lord Kitchener dropped some bangers for his residents. You can subscribe to Apple Music here and check out my playlist of songs from the movie.
The Kitchen’s themes include poverty, gentrification, police brutality, family, community and the underdog’s struggle for a brighter tomorrow. Legendary Grime artist Kano has become an accomplished actor and puts in a strong performance. I found the scenery to be very well put together and wondered where the directors may have drawn inspiration from. If you liked The Kitchen, you might enjoy what may have inspired it too.
This long-running Netflix series is known for being a dark, violent and often futuristic critique on society. Daniel Kaluuya had a stand out role in a short film where he played Bing, a man who reaches the end of his tether. It’s no coincidence that the 15 Million Merits star has similar elements in his directorial debut.
There’s an obvious Top Boy connection in The Kitchen – Kano played a starring role in Top Boy as Mafia boss Sully. Some may also recognise another familiar face from that show. Hope Ipoku Jr played Aaron, an aspiring student who was the younger brother of a notorious gangster. In The Kitchen, Hope becomes Staples, the leader of a pack of brazen youths. Another connection that may not be so obvious involves a spoiler for those who haven’t seen the highly-rated Netflix show. I’ll spare you the details, but I couldn’t help thinking that the final season of Top Boy must have been a huge inspiration to Kaluuya. If you watch it, you’ll see what I mean.
Alien director Ridley Scott made another epic sci-fi movie which will be remembered as one of the greatest in Its genre. Blade Runner was originally released in 1982, then brought back to life with an awesome sequel decades later in 2017. I would recommend watching both. There had to be a Blade Runner comparison even if it is a bit of a reach. It’s a tale of people struggling to survive who are being pursued by law enforcement. For me, this firmly puts The Kitchen in Blade Runner territory. Especially when you look at Blade Runner’s gritty futuristic backdrop. A lot of other movies were inspired by that too.
Alita: Battle Angel / Gunnm
A classic Manga and Japanese animation published in 1993. The story is an emotional one centred around a surrogate father and child relationship. A bit like the relationship between Izi and Benji in The Kitchen. It’s another futuristic setting where the struggling protagonists fight for a better tomorrow. The 2019 live-action version is an excellent adaptation. Written by James Cameron, directed by Robert Rodriguez, staring Christopher Waltz and Mahershala Ali. With credits like that, Alita: Battle Angel was always going to be good.
Also Read: Retro Review: Blade Runner at 40