Daniel Kaluuya's directorial debut
When Complex asked Daniel Kaluuya about his directorial debut, the Get Out actor spoke about the magic that came from discussing ideas with Co-director, Kibwe Tavares, over a decade prior. “I wanted that [world-building] for British cinema, I wanted to see our world with that kind of imagination, with that kind of scale.” Together, the duo were able to combine that distinctive London identity with their script.
The backdrop they so fluently implemented into The Kitchen was the biggest strength and the glue of the film. Although the Netflix project can be labeled as a successful debut, it was not one without flaw for Kaluuya. The undertones of social commentary on gentrification, class, race and even occupation throughout the movie were notable due to recent events and issues; but the granular plot following Izi and Benji (Jedaiah Bannerman) lacked enough depth and progression that a melancholic story deserves. This isn’t in any way a disregard towards the chemistry the actors shared on screen. In fact, Bannerman and Kano’s relationship was a shining beacon at many points in the film, which is precisely why their interactions and dialogue had so much potential to further explore their growing bond.
2. Izi or Dystopian Scully?
It’s safe to say that Kano has mastered the ‘tortured soul’ archetype. The pain of surviving in a dystopian capital, plagued by state-led raids is sufficiently conveyed through Izi’s deadpan expressions, monotonous speech, yet harrowed eyes.
From his performance as Scully in Top Boy, you can understand why Kaluuya chose the East London rapper to play the role as his compatibility to the protagonist seems to be an understatement. However, Kano is treading a fine line between perfectly executing a character similar to his previous project, and essentially type casting himself. When he was announced as part of the Netflix production, there was buzz surrounding his involvement, particularly for Kano to flex his theatrical muscles and for viewers to see the potential in his range. It will be interesting to see how his acting career develops moving forward, and what role he decides to take on next.
3. A well constructed soundtrack speaks volumes
The carefully crafted soundtrack wasn’t just an ode to Black British culture, but also served as a powerful narrative companion.
Although songs like Party Popper and How Bout Us offered support to emotions, tension, and atmosphere throughout the storyline, deeper meaning and lyrics from other tracks took the plot further. Take Alhaji K Frimpong’s Kyenkyen Bi Adi M'awu and Zombie by Fela Kuti: both West African artists- albeit in their respective languages- share themes of defiance and rebellion throughout their songs. The reason the music supervision was so impactful was ironically to do with the lack thereof. Modern films have soundtracks averaging around 20+ songs, whereas The Kitchen only has 15. The film relies heavily on the score, which gives the interjection of a well-placed song far more punch and weight. The best example of this is when Candy is playing at the roller rink. The score and the cult classic intertwine and slow down to emulate Benji’s state of confusion and abandonment, before the song takes over again, signifying his regained state of composure.
From Sampha’s subtle melodies that accompanied intimate moments to Ruff Sqwad crescendos that heightened suspense, the music became an indispensable storyteller in its own right, and for that props must be given to Music Supervisor, Jumi Akinfenwa.
4. Guest appearances coupled with culture
The sprinkle of prominent Black figures throughout the film was a refreshing surprise. From Backroad Gee and Cristale, to Teija Kabs and Arsenal legend Ian Wright as Lord Kitchener. The nod to the culture was an authentic one that kept the futuristic storyline from feeling too far removed from the reality that the film was pulling from. A large part of that was due to the natural flow of language and slang, in a way that many London-based shows and films have lacked, or even overdone in recent times.
Compared to shows like Top Boy, where the forced slang takes away from the narrative and individual performances, it’s clear the actors were able to mold, tweak and alter their lines to better fit their own speech patterns and colloquialisms, making for a smoother visual journey and experience.