Film

THE KITCHEN REVIEW: DANIEL KALUUYA’S FUTURISTIC DRAMA MIGHT BE ONE OF 2024’S MOST IMPORTANT FILMS

THE KITCHEN REVIEW: DANIEL KALUUYA’S FUTURISTIC DRAMA MIGHT BE ONE OF 2024’S MOST IMPORTANT FILMS
Film

THE KITCHEN REVIEW: DANIEL KALUUYA’S FUTURISTIC DRAMA MIGHT BE ONE OF 2024’S MOST IMPORTANT FILMS

THE KITCHEN REVIEW: DANIEL KALUUYA’S FUTURISTIC DRAMA MIGHT BE ONE OF 2024’S MOST IMPORTANT FILMS

Released on Netflix at the start of January, The Kitchen tells the story of mainly Londoners living in a nightmare futuristic UK - where many of them try to survive as a community in an abandoned social housing estate 

New British film The Kitchen stands out as an early contender for one of the most important films of 2024. 

The film, which Kibwe Tavares and Daniel Kaluuya directed, looks at a community living in a social housing estate called ‘The Kitchen’, which has been abandoned by the powers that be. 

The Kitchen stars actor and grime artist Kano (Kane Robinson), who plays the leading role of Izi. Working in a high-tech bereavement centre where the dead are cremated and their ashes turned into plants (for a sizeable fee, of course), Izi spends his days trying to guilt-trip grieving families into paying more for added extras. He does this so that he can earn enough commission to finally leave The Kitchen and upgrade to the sleek, modernistic ‘Buena Vistas’ housing estate. 

Focused entirely on his own ambitions, he cares for no one. That is until he encounters young teenager Benji (played by newcomer Jedaiah Bannerman) in the bereavement centre. Benji’s mother has just passed away, and it’s hinted that Izi might have had some sort of relationship with her in the past. 

Izi decides he is responsible to Benji, so he reluctantly takes him under his wing. But he’s jaded from his life in The Kitchen, and he’s afraid that Benji will get sucked into the petty crime and frustration that comes with living there. He’s also worried that, by getting too close to Benji, his plans to upgrade to his new housing estate will be scuppered. 

The story focuses mainly on these two characters: Benji, who is looking for a parental figure, and Izi, who is cautious about getting too close to anyone. 

But The Kitchen has plenty to say in terms of social commentary. Viewers are presented with a version of London where all social housing has been decimated, so the thousands of residents living in The Kitchen are essentially squatting there illegally. Even though they have created lives and communities, they are constantly subjected to violent police raids and drone security - all to terrorise the residents away from the property. 

In the midst of this, people continue to live their lives. The Kitchen might be overcrowded and impoverished, but the residents build up businesses - barbershops, takeaways, clubs, bars, even makeshift entertainment parks - and they find ways to flourish. From within one of the highest floors of the housing estate, Lord Kitchener (played beautifully by former footballer and broadcaster Ian Wright) gives shout-outs over a tannoy system to residents on their birthdays, and he plays music from Bitty McLean and Fela Kuti. He keeps spirit levels high, even though the environment sometimes feels soul-crushing. 

Visually, The Kitchen’s directors present the housing estate as densely packed - with traders, sellers, and businesses almost on top of each other, and neon lights and billboards hanging from the walls of nearly every building. 

This creates a dystopian futuristic feel, similar to what viewers will have seen before in the likes of Blade Runner, Ready Player One, and certain Black Mirror episodes (in fact, there are even striking similarities between the futuristic world presented in The Kitchen and the world presented in the Black Mirror episode ‘Fifteen Million Credits’, which Daniel Kaluuya himself starred in). 

At times, the film is heartbreaking. At other times, it’s truly uplifting. But above all, The Kitchen truly has a lot to say about minority communities living in the UK - and the dangers of destroying these communities and their living environments for the sake of gentrification and privatisation. 

The Kitchen features brilliant performances from most of its cast members, with Kano, Jedaiah Bannerman, Hope Ikpoku Jr, and Ian Wright deserving of particular praise. It also marks an exciting new development for Daniel Kaluuya, who seems destined to become as strong and successful a director as he already is an actor. 

The Kitchen is currently streaming on Netflix UK, as of January 19th, 2024.

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