The Kitchen was set in a dystopian London where minority communities and immigrants stayed in the titular locality while those who could afford it moved to Buena Vida. In order to vacate The Kitchen, the police raided the place and arrested people. In an attempt to send a message to the upper classes and the authorities, Staples and his gang raided their supplies and even vandalized elite spaces. Amidst all this, Izi was transitioning from his flat in The Kitchen to a flat in Buena Vida by working tirelessly at a futuristic funeral place called Life After Life. That was where he met Benji while he was tending to the remains of his mother, and the two formed a bond because Izi knew Benji’s mother, and Benji’s mother had given a vague description of his father that sort of matched with Izi’s personality. Since Benji was the soul of the film, let’s talk about him.
What Was Benji’s Equation With Staples?
Before becoming properly acquainted with Izi, Benji actually gravitated towards Staples because he gave him a place to live after his own flat became unlivable due to the death of his mother. When he was appreciated by Staples and his gang for taking out a police drone, Benji felt like he was a part of a real family again. While staying with him, he got to meet a girl who was romantically interested in him, and vice versa. He got to ride bikes and meet with the coolest people in The Kitchen. When he was abandoned yet again, Staples took him under his wing. However, his reentry into the gang came at a price because Staples made him raid one of the apartments at Buena Vida. And that was when he learned that he wasn’t cut out for the life that Staples was leading.
Any other movie would’ve demonized Staples because he was partaking in anarchic activities. But The Kitchen showed that his work was vital to the survival of the locality and the people living there. He was responsible for keeping everyone fed so that the culture and diversity that flowed out of the place didn’t die because of fascism. To a kid like Benji, who had a lot of complex feelings bubbling inside him after the death of his mother, that kind of lifestyle must have seemed like an outlet. However, one needs to have a level of courage and determination to be a rebellious leader like Staples, and Benji just wasn’t old enough to do that. Staples laid down all the cards on the table for Benji and made him face the music. Benji failed, and that’s fine. He probably has his whole life ahead of him, and it’s possible that he’ll learn to become like Staples without retreading the path that Staples took to become the man we saw in the movie.
What Was the Dynamic Between Benji and Izi?
Izi fit the description of the man Toni Clarke (Benji’s deceased mother) said was Benji’s father. That was the primary reason why Benji followed Izi around and eventually convinced him to let him stay with him at his apartment, because Izi was concerned that Staples was going to influence Benji in a bad way. Izi treated Benji like a strict dad would treat his son. He kept Benji away from the “delinquents.” He saw to it that he got proper food. He prepared him for a temporary position in Life After Life. He allowed him to party as long as Benji didn’t do anything radical. When he strayed too far, Izi reeled him back and allowed him to customize the apartment so that he felt at home there.
However, Izi’s dreams of moving to Buena Vida stood at odds with his intention to keep Benji around. It was difficult to get a single accommodation flat in that economy, and Izi had luckily acquired one. He had booked that place before Benji entered his life. Now that he was staying with him, he intended to move into a double-accommodation flat. That said, in order to get a double-accommodation flat, he had to let go of the single-accommodation flat that he had booked. Since the chances of getting the double-accommodation flat were slim, he didn’t want to let go of the single-accommodation flat for a kid that he had known for a few weeks or months. Hence, Izi chose the flat over Benji. As in, he straight up abandoned the kid in a restaurant and moved away. It was heartbreaking for Benji, and it was evident that Izi wasn’t happy with that decision as well. Maybe if he had moved in there without meeting Benji, things would’ve been different, but since he did what he did after meeting the kid who treated him as a father, he couldn’t enjoy the (hollow) beauty of Buena Vida.
Was Izi Benji’s biological father?
The Kitchen avoided asking the aforementioned question even though it was staring at the faces of the characters and the audiences. But after Izi reunited with Benji and apologized for abandoning him by bringing the plant that represented Toni (Benji’s mother) so that it could be replanted in a pot in the titular locality, it became clear that Izi had some kind of a connection with Benji. Izi didn’t seem like the sentimental type. However, something about the kid melted his cold heart and made him treat Benji like his own son.
After Izi saved Benji from a cop and it seemed like the future of The Kitchen was uncertain, Benji explicitly asked if Izi was his father. Izi said what anybody in his situation would’ve said: he didn’t know. Izi clearly had a relationship with Toni. Was it a long-term one? Was it just a fling? Did Izi’s commitment phobia act up when he learned that Toni was pregnant? We don’t know, and it seemed like Izi was unsure as well. That said, Izi was ready to make amends, especially after he realized how much Benji depended on him. Also, based on how Benji panicked after seeing Staples commit anti-classism and anti-fascist violence, it was apparent that he needed the soft mentorship that only Izi could provide him. Hence, it doesn’t matter whether Izi was Benji’s biological father. He wanted to be the father that Benji needed, and that’s what was important.