Director: Paddy Considine
Screenplay: Paddy Considine
Starring: Paddy Considine, Jodie Whittaker, Anthony Welsh, Tony Pitts, Paul Popplewell
Duration: 94 min
BBFC Certification: 15
Easily one of this country’s finest actors, Paddy Considine released his directorial debut, Tyrannosaur in 2011 – a bleak and unflinchingly brutal portrait of domestic violence that marked Considine as a talent behind the camera as well as in front of it. Journeyman is his follow up film as writer, director and, this time, lead. Based on his real life love of boxing, this is a slightly more comfortable watch than its predecessor.
Considine plays Matty Burton, a boxer coming to the end of his career who is devoted to his wife Emma (Jodie Whittaker) and their baby daughter, Mia. He is preparing to defend his title – the challenger is the arrogant and brash Andre “The Future” Bryte (Anthony Welsh). At the pre-match press conference, he is determined to prove himself worthy of the title he holds (which he won due to his previous opponent withdrawing due to injury), while Bryte taunts him continuously, foreshadowing what is to come, telling him “I’m going to take your head off. This is a life-changer for you.”
The fight is a fierce grudge match but Matty goes the distance, wins the judges’ decision, and retains the belt. However, head injuries he sustains in the fight cause him to collapse later at home. After receiving brain surgery his cognitive functions are reduced to almost childlike levels. As he attempts to rebuild his life, Emma tries to support him, but Matty is unable to voice his frustrations and begins to lash out.
Apparently, Considine didn’t plan on appearing in the film himself, but after doing script read-throughs with some of the cast decided to take on the role of Matty. A lesser actor would have overdone the condition and played the role as a caricature, but Considine presents a man who is aware of his change of circumstances and although initially feels powerless, finds the strength to reassert himself.
The role of Matty’s wife, Emma, was written by Considine with Jodie Whittaker in mind, and she steps up to plate. At first the character appears to be the standard supportive wife cliché, but once she has to care for her invalid husband, Whittaker opens up and really conveys the subtleties of a woman who has accepted the reality that her husband by might never return to the man he once was. You can really sympathise with her, and her journey is at times far more heart-wrenching than that of Matty’s.
It is a shame, then, when Emma’s character takes a backseat about halfway through the film and spends the majority of the rest of the running time off-screen. She is replaced by Matty’s old trainers, who guilty that they had previously abandoned him, take on the role of his carers. Here Considine turns the classic boxing film training montage on its head, showing Matty working through his physiotherapy in much the same way as he would have trained for a fight.
Considine’s direction is understated, which works for the subject matter. He uses quick flashbacks to the fight at times, dragging Matty back in, which I think cleverly gives the viewer a sense of the mental trauma he is going through. I also like the use of the minimalist modern home that Matty and Emma lives in, which takes on the appearance of a sterile hospital once he returns after his operation.
Journeyman delivers a moving story of a man trying to reassemble the fragments of his former self after suffering a traumatic accident, showing his struggles in a thought provoking manner. The film is populated with complex characters, and unusually for a film that is set in the traditionally macho world of boxing, includes males who aren’t afraid to cry (I was in tears at various points in the film). The only downside to film is a third act that feels rushed and leads to a somewhat predictable and not entirely convincing conclusion. However, Journeyman is an emotional rollercoaster of a film that is worth your time.
Journeyman is released on Blu-ray and DVD by StudioCanal. This review is for the Blu-ray and includes the following extras:
• Commentary with Writer, Director and Lead Actor Paddy Considine
• Interview with Paddy Considine and Boxing Coach Dom Ingle
• Extended scenes: Post-fight Interview and Head-to-Head