There are no aliens or sentient killing machines threatening ordinary people in Netflix’s new dystopian action drama The kitchen from co-directors Daniel Kaluuya and Kibwe Tavares. But the film’s gripping story about the monsters of the future and how the most disadvantaged members of society must stand up to them feels all too real, a reminder of the ways in which systemic poverty creates its own dystopia.
It’s set in an almost futuristic London, where fluorescent hologram advertisements dance across signs and camera-encrusted police drones loom silently high in the sky. The kitchen is a chronicle of the goings-on in the title district. After years of social housing in the UK being bought up by private companies and turned into expensive luxury apartments for the wealthy, The Kitchen – a towering, dilapidated apartment building long slated for demolition – is the only place in London where people like Isaac (rapper Kane “Kano” Robinson) can actually afford to live.
De Keuken is beyond poor and the residents never know if the city will turn off their electricity and water. But it is still a bustling commercial center where vendors sling food on streets full of playing children and old men relax on the doorsteps of barbershops. There is always an atmosphere of tension as Kitcheners brace for yet another violent police raid on the city aimed at driving them from their homes.
But the air in the Kitchen is also constantly filled with the sound of music broadcast from Lord Kitchener’s (Ian Wright) pirate radio station, along with his calls for the neighborhood’s predominantly black and brown community to stick with the idea that they have a right to exist. in a place where their families have survived for decades.
As a Kitchener himself, Isaac – who, along with his friend Jase (Demmy Ladipo), works for a company that composts the dead whose families can’t afford traditional funerals – knows that the neighborhood is so much more than a block full of people squatting illegally in their homes . condemned buildings. But after a lifetime of watching the Kitchen being razed and its residents brutalized by officers in riot gear, all Isaac wants is a chance to get out and move into the kind of high-rise where he can shut himself down of the world and his feelings. .
The kitchen makes it easy to recognize the parallels between its vision of futuristic housing inequality and our current reality where renters and potential homebuyers around the world are increasingly priced out of the limited, highly competitive real estate market. But the film’s script by Kaluuya and co-writers Rob Hayes and Joe Murtagh and its focus on young Londoners navigating the complexities of near-homelessness ensure that The kitchen it can be read as a damning reflection of the devastating long-term effects of British purchasing rights policies of the Margaret Thatcher era.
The kitchen presents its namesake as a cramped Kowloon-esque mosaic of barely livable spaces packed with outdated technology that contrasts sharply with the spacious neighborhoods nearby, where shiny, self-driving cars idle alongside luxury boutiques. Kitcheners like Isaac and Staples (Hope Ikpoku Jr.) – the leader of a motorcycle gang whose robberies provide the Kitchen’s only source of food – are surrounded at all times by reminders of basic comforts being denied them.
But out of many ways The kitchen illustrates how society systematically dehumanizes the poor, few are as profound as the depiction of Isaac going to work every day and convincing his neighbors to purchase a service that they all understand is intended to remove them from the public consciousness to clear. That erasure is part of what terrifies young orphan Benji (Jedaiah Bannerman) when he sees his mother’s remains turned into tree dung at Life After Life, where he first meets Isaac. What really scares Isaac, however, is his unwavering sense that Benji’s mother’s fate was inevitable simply because he got out of the Kitchen, and a glimpse of what awaits Benji if he doesn’t escape the Kitchen himself.
As Isaac and Benji come into each other’s lives, The kitchen It becomes a kind of coming-of-age story, but also a rumination on the power of communal action and building families. Isaac – a stoic character who Robinson portrays as brilliantly emotionally overloaded – wants little to do with Benji when the pair first meet. There is no room for a child in Isaac’s future plan, or even in his current corner of the Kitchen, where he has to lock himself in when the police show up to evict people by beating them to death.
But for all of Benji’s ingenuity, he’s just a kid who Isaac knows will eventually work with the Staples crew or be killed because they live in a world full of systems designed to leave people like them with no other options. The concepts come into focus from slightly different perspectives The kitchen have been explored in other genre films such as Attack the block And They cloned Tyroneboth of which leaned much harder on their respective hard sci-fi elements.
What makes The kitchen What feels so distinct, however, is the way the subtle touches of speculative futurism highlight the reality of how at-risk communities are surveilled and how riots ultimately become people’s organic response to state-sponsored violence. Both from Lord Kitchener’s broadcasts and from Isaac’s impending sense of dread, The kitchen never lose sight of the fact that Kitcheners are fighting for their lives in a war they are unlikely to win.
But at the heart of that fight is an undeniable sense of hope and beauty in the lives of everyone in the Kitchen. The kitchen‘s ability to showcase that beauty in intimate scenes between Isaac and Benji and in bigger moments like the surprise dance sequence in the third act, all while telling a story so heartbreaking, is an achievement. And it’s exactly what makes the film one of Netflix’s most powerful new releases, and one you’ll almost certainly hear more about now that it’s streaming.