The meaning of home is personal and with it comes complex questions concerning community and stability. In Kibwe Tavares and Daniel Kaluuya’s first feature film together, a stylish dystopian drama set in the near future called The Kitchen, they grapple with themes such as the homogenisation of London, police violence and male bonding.
The visuals nod to Blade Runner and the soundtrack is a heady mix of Lovers Rock, RnB, Rap and more blended with an invigorating score by Labrinth and Alex Baranowski. The vibes are turned up to eleven, with the film revelling in imaginative and vibrant world-building and delivering on an ambience of disquiet.
At the centre of the film is lone wolf Izi (Kano) who lives in ‘The Kitchen’ (one of the last social housing neighbourhoods in London). With the passing of his former girlfriend, Izi discovers her orphaned son Benji (Jedaiah Bannerman) who looks to him for guidance. Meanwhile, Izi’s community is under threat from the government and he has to make the choice to stay and protect it or move on to pastures new.
The multiple strands to the story aren’t always balanced but the film’s strong grasp on modern London life is undeniable. The dynamic between Benji and Izi is also thoughtfully written and performed with Kaluuya mentioning the late Peter Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon as a touchstone.
The narrative may tread a well-worn path but it’s all delivered with compelling political conviction, cheeky humour and a lot of heart. The great casting choices too breathe refreshing life into the dystopian fiction genre. As established in Top Boy, Kano has a charismatic screen presence and the filmmakers use this to their advantage. Much of the film is spent in his company as he deals with personal turmoil and delightfully bonds with Bannerman’s bewildered Benji.
When Ian Wright turns up in the picture as Lord Kitchener – the community radio DJ – it’s difficult not to be endeared by what Kaluuya and Tavares have cooked up with The Kitchen as a film that sincerely navigates and mourns those special, idiosyncratic things that London and in turn society and humanity is losing in the name of greed.
The Kitchen was seen and reviewed at the London Film Festival. It will be released on 12 January 2024.