VOD film review: Journeyman
James R | On 01, Aug 2018
Director: Paddy Considine
Cast: Paddy Considine, Jodie Whittaker, Paul Popplewell, Anthony Welsh
Paddy Considine is one of the most underrated talents in British filmmaking. After impressing in everything from Dead Man’s Shoes to Hot Fuzz, he proved it behind the camera too with the devastating Tyrannosaur. Now, he’s combined his honest storytelling and sincere performing to produce Journeyman, a boxing drama that jabs right at the chest.
He plays Matty Burton, a middleweight fighter who’s sitting top of the heap. But after defending his title against a brutal young contender, Matty finds himself falling from that podium – literally. Collapsing in his living room following the fight, he finds himself undergoing brain surgery – and losing all memory of his family and friends after. It’s this fight that Journeyman is concerned with, and that decision to step out of the ring is what makes the film so effective: this is a sports drama that doesn’t contain much sport, an underdog battle that positions not just Matty as the unlikely competitor against his injury, but his whole family.
Considine delivers a remarkable, raw turn in the lead, deftly ducking and weaving so many of the pitfalls that could have weighed him down. Taking heed of the advice in Tropic Thunder, he underplays the whole thing, never going overboard and allowing the stakes to overwhelm instead. It’s a physical performance that’s far from the heavyweight slugging we associate with boxing movies, full of subtle, convincing tics – right down to the way Matty feigns remembering something to avoid upsetting those around him.
He’s matched at every punch by Jodie Whittaker as his wife, Emma. For anyone doubting her sublime acting abilities, this is a masterclass in the honesty and nuance she brings to the screen; it’s a generous turn that amplifies Considine’s presence but never undercuts her own emotional battle, as she has to mind her husband in the same way she has to care for their baby, Mia. The movie is at its best when she disappears off screen for a small stretch – a testament to how effective her work is up until then. One standout scene sees then separated but talking over the phone – you haven’t cried so hard at someone holding a receiver since Ewan McGregor in The Impossible.
Their combined weight, captured with intimacy and restraint by Considine’s camera, means that the potential cliched arc of recovery and redemption carries fresh clout. A sequence involving a river feels like a tiny misstep, but the otherwise impeccable footwork – including an impressive supporting turn by Anthony Welsh as rival hitter Andre Bryte – undercuts any threat of melodrama. The result is a hard-hitting showcase for two of Britain’s prizefighters, an unabashedly heartfelt piece of cinema that comes out swinging.