Release: 30th July 2018
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
After winning a punishing title defence on points, world middleweight boxing champion Matty Burton (Paddy Considine, Dead Man’s Shoes, In America, ‘Peaky Blinders’) collapses. The journey towards regaining his speech, movement and memory will be the toughest fight he’ll ever face, and the prize could not be greater, for his relationship with his wife Emma (Jodie Whittaker, Attack the Block, ‘Doctor Who’ (2018), ‘Broadchurch’) and baby daughter Mia are on the line.
When Paddy Considine stepped up to the director’s chair in 2011 with Tyrannosaur, he caught audiences with a stiff right hand. His brutal and malign tale of domestic abuse was fascinating viewing. Now, 7 years hence, Considine has us on the ropes with yet another beautifully dreary tale. Journeyman, however, is a somewhat more uplifting affair; and this, a story about a boxer with irreparable brain damage.
The most prominent motivation for his creating this film, seems to be that Considine is a boxing fanatic. It is surprising then, that the great sport is something of a macguffin in this realist drama. There is no Raging Bull POV moment here, no Rocky-esque final bout, no Ali in-ring shuffling. In fact, 90% of the film is still about fighting, just a more metaphysical kind. And it is here that Considine proves himself to be a heavyweight champion. If for no other reason, then see Journeyman for one of the most outstanding single take performances of the modern age. As Matty Burton struggles to communicate his fear and confusion on a phone call to etiolated wife Emma, you’ll be left in bits, pausing for breath, wondering if Doctor Who (Jody Whittaker) and a string of supporting roles (Considine) is really the best use of such tremendous talent.
It is by no means a flawless film. There are a lot of the familiar beats seen in anything from Rain Man to A Beautiful Mind, while at 90 minutes it feels like the film could have done with a little more time in the oven to add more flavour. It’s a peculiar love letter to boxing, yet Journeyman feels just as vindicated as any of the great sports films. Yet one cannot help but wonder what a talent such of Considine would have achieved with a more direct ode to a sport that he so clearly understands and appreciates.
There seems to be an emerging thematic rhetoric of abandonment, isolation and ultimately, muted triumph in these films; so, one might assume that Considine’s next picture will follow in a similar vein. These are hardly Paddington bear levels of optimism and hope, but when Considine can jump between comedic wonder (Hot Fuzz, The Death of Stalin, Submarine) and weighty brooder (Dead Man’s Shoes, Mr Whicher), it is no surprise that his chosen output would be something more akin to the prestigious sensibilities of someone who so clearly digs deep in to the human condition. Journeyman is a symbol of this very thing. As Matty goes round after round with brain damage, he wins some and he loses other. But ultimately, here is a film about standing toe to toe with one of humanity’s most terrifying prospects; losing your identity. Because without it, what does our life become? So this was never going to be the laugh-a-minute ramblings of rock roadie Le Donk or Sandford’s DS Andy Wainwright. But then again, he does put a baby in the washing machine. That’s got to get a laugh or too, surely? Albeit an awkward, terrified one.
Film Grade: B+
A short Interview and some throw away Deleted Scenes make for weak viewing. The Director’s Commentary, however, is a nice window in Considine’s mindspace.
Special Features Grade: C-
Journeyman is the sort of thing Ken Loach might make in a more chill moment. It’s brutal, it’s heartbreaking, it’s a credit to the skills of all involved.