The Kitchen 2023 movie

The Kitchen – A singular portrait of British Sci-Fi future

Over and over, we’ve covered so many different dystopian futures in this site’s movies, yet I’m always glad when something different comes out about this genre, like The Kitchen, an intriguing British/US production from 2023.

This world is a unique blend of sci-fi dystopia and social class divisions, set in a future London where everyday technologies are both a boon and a bane for its inhabitants.

Not surprisingly, as per the title, The Kitchen is one of the poor working-class neighborhoods of the city, now owned by corporations even if occupied by the people born and raised there who do not want to leave the old quarter.

Among them is the main character, Izi, who, on the other hand, has no problem leaving that life behind and instead works hard to earn enough money to purchase a stylish apartment in the downtown area.

Until one day young Benji appears in his life, who has just lost his mother and has no one in the world to take care of him.

Benji is also convinced that Izi is his father, but the latter denies it and refuses to take him into his small apartment, which he is now in the process of abandoning.

However, the man changes his mind when he sees the boy start hanging out with a Kitchen gang, a group of rebels led by the charismatic Staples who organize food thefts and are among the few who still resist police raids.

Welcoming Benji into his life, Izi tries to guide him toward a peaceful existence and an honest job, like selling burial niches/plants where he can bury people for little money.

But the police raids become increasingly violent amid a no-man’s land where Benji is increasingly convinced that Izi is not telling the truth about his mother.

A future not too far from present

On the internet, I am reading many negative reviews and opinions about this movie, which is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting of 2023, probably so criticized because many expected something The Kitchen is not.

Initially, the fascinating futuristic technologies and the excellent cinematography that often veers to that soft blue in the style of Minority Report (the best example I can think of) may make you feel into an adventure like the novels of Philip K. Dick and William Gibson.

However, we soon realize there are no plots and mysterious conspiracies to foil. Instead, the heart of the narrative lies in this father-son relationship, of which, paradoxically, the most fascinating side is precisely that we don’t know if they are father and son.

Parallel to this, equally important is the social context in which this family drama takes place: an environment on the verge of exploding, where the weakest and poorest citizens are completely exasperated, and, on the other hand, the police work as the private security of big corporations.

Midway between these two narrative lines, we put the gang of “revolutionaries” led by the father/criminal leader Hope Ikpoku Jnr, intertwining with the human affair played perfectly by the silent and cynical Kano and the promising young Jedaiah Bannerman.

Thus, we can define this genre as “conceptually sci-fi” since, removing this hypothetical future London backdrop, the characters and plot could take place in any of the great modern metropolises.

We therefore applaud the remarkable attempt of directors Kibwe Tavares and Daniel Kaluuya, who wrote the screenplay with Joe Murtagh, probably aware they would turn away large audiences seeking entertainment with such a story.

That’s why it’s essential to keep the flame of independent cinema alive, the only place where you can still fight for lost causes.

Finding a family amidst the chaos

Having established that the sci-fi element is a mere driver for human relationships, let’s take a closer look at the excellent cast that “cooks” in the Kitchen of this 2023 movie.

Of course, at the forefront is Kano, a seemingly cold and insensitive protagonist who cares about nothing and no one except securing for himself a comfortable and secure life.

A man who seems expressionless and detached from everything around him, shutting the security door of his apartment while cops ravage the neighborhood as if it doesn’t concern him at all.

Yet he must open that door (and his heart) when Jedaiah Bannerman goes looking for him, an orphan with no home or family left who suddenly finds himself in a hostile environment where he knows no one.

One of the most exciting aspects is how the boy gains the friendship and trust of Hope Ikpoku Jnr’s gang, whose character will become an alternative father to the indecisive and reticent Kano.

It is no coincidence there is actually only one scene where Kano and Hope Ikpoku Jnr are together: when the former brings back the motorcycle that the latter had given to the boy, clearly saying (without speaking) to leave him out of the messes and confrontations with the police.

Finally, unrelated to all the other characters, I want to mention the excellent Ian Wright, who plays the “voice” of the neighborhood, the deejay Lord Kitchener, who is the last bulwark in the revolt against the money-eating humanity of the city.

A philosophical and funny character closely reminiscent of the legendary Super Soul from Vanishing Point, the deejay encouraging Kowalski on his long journey to California, or even the deejay girl whose lips we only saw in The Warriors, later reprised in an ironic key in John Wick 4.

While not an action movie, The Kitchen fully captures the spirit of social struggle of these cult films, soothing the plot with a sorrowful family relationship that we never see complete, except perhaps when it’s too late. Instead, it’s not too late for you to catch up with this little movie, possibly trying to give it the fraction of recognition and visibility it deserves.

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