The Kitchen (2023) Review – Filled with Daniel Kaluuya’s swagger but lacking in emotional depth

By Amanda Guarragi
Published: January 19, 2024 (Last updated: 5 weeks ago)
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The Kitchen (2024) Review
The Kitchen | Image via Netflix
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Summary

Daniel Kaluuya’s directorial debut has his unique presence embedded in every inch of the cultural representation and music choices, but it unfortunately lacks in the story.

When films highlight a dystopian society, they often express how the government has failed its people. We believe in a futuristic society, the world would be different. That community would be financially stable and flourish in an ever-changing economy. That people would be able to live fruitfully and enjoy their lives. Sadly, that’s the future we all crave, but we cannot find it in reality or fiction. Dystopian stories like The Kitchen (2024), directed by Daniel Kaluuya and Kibwe Tavares and streaming on Netflix, give a raw perspective of how broken government systems can be, no matter the period.

In this narrative, all social housing in London has been eliminated, and the pocket of people called “The Kitchen” refuses to leave their homes because they have nowhere else to go. They are raided and uprooted from their homes for not complying with the government. Tavares and Kaluuya highlight the harshness of these conditions for the working class and how difficult it is to improve that quality of life. 

Tavares and Kaluuya co-direct an emotional story between Izi (Kane Robinson) and Benji (Jedaiah Bannerman). Izi works at a funeral home, but since it’s in the future, dead loved ones are regenerated into new plants. So, instead of a mausoleum filled with coffins on the walls, there are plants that take the place of the deceased. Izi works outside of “The Kitchen”. When he sees Benji walk in on the day of his mother’s funeral, he seems unusually sad. The link between Izi and Benji is questioned throughout the film.

Even though the construction of the dystopian “Kitchen” is well done, nothing feels grounded in the world created. The story revolves around a grieving teenager who is trying to find his place after his mother passed. Benji finds people protesting against the government and joins them. He feels part of a community that will look after him instead of being neglected by Izi. The back and forth isn’t strong enough to carry the film for the runtime and does begin to drag about halfway through.

For a story about a father possibly finding his son and struggling with the idea of being a supportive parent, it lacks emotional weight for its characters. It becomes repetitive, and the arguments between Izi and Benji cause Benji to make questionable decisions. For a major part of the film, Benji navigates two sides of himself; the side that aches for acceptance and love instantly versus actually building something real. It’s interesting to see how Benji goes through his grief knowing what’s right for him and what is bad for his future.

If you are a fan of Daniel Kaluuya and want to support his directorial debut, I suggest you give The Kitchen a shot. His visual style and the way he incorporates culture and music are so uniquely him that there is a future potential for other projects. The only way to watch this is to go in with little to no expectations and you’ll appreciate the film in some way. This is by no means a revolutionary dystopian tale, but there are threads of familiar territory that make this easy to sit through.

There are choices made in The Kitchen that lack the emotional depth needed to connect its characters to the audience. That is the major setback here and it could have been corrected multiple times throughout the film. It does get repetitive towards the middle and loses all steam once the reveal happens.

What did you think of The Kitchen (2024)? Comment below.


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