Journeyman Review

As an actor Paddy Considine has never shied away from misery. His powerful directorial debut Tyrannosaur was a grim as fuck tale of domestic abuse and cruelty, and his second, self-penned feature, whilst not as disturbing, is at times similarly difficult to watch.

Considine is also the star of Journeyman, playing Mattie Burton, a world champion boxer about to embark on his final professional bout against a cocky young upstart determined to make a name for himself.

His opponent Andre Bryte goads him at the pre-fight oppress conference and weigh-in, promising not only to defeat the champion but to cause him deeper harm.

Burton, the experienced veteran, remains unperturbed by all of this, returning home to reassure his beautiful wife Emma, played by Jodie Whittaker and kiss his new-born baby girl before leaving for the fight.

He wins a brutal contest and returns home with his belt, battered and victorious. His record intact, his legacy assured.

Only then to fall into a coma in Emma’s arms.

Mattie comes around, but has suffered life altering brain injuries. His movement is restricted, his speech slurred, his motor skills and memory significantly diminished.

He returns from hospital to a home he doesn’t understand and a daughter he does not recognise. Whilst his world champion boxer entourage implausibly keep their distance Emma is left to manage his rehabilitation and raise their daughter alone.

Journeyman is the latest in the long and familiar motion picture love affair with the most brutal of sports.

This unfortunately makes the movie feel very well worn, if not quite clichéd. It is a testament to my skill as a writer which has led me thus far not to write the following sentence;

‘He now faces the greatest battle of his life: the struggle for his family’.

Whilst the scenes in the aftermath of the fight, as Mattie and Emma both come to terms with his injuries are well made, intimate and at times moving, there is a slight sense of predictability to them.

There is also something unsatisfying about a film concerning a particular sport which doesn’t end in its own arena. An inevitable lack of a dramatic realisation, a story rendered incomplete.

That is not to say it does not have its moments.

Considine is always convincing as the once powerful and successful fighter having now to relearn everything, including the most basic of functions, from scratch. Jodie Whittaker is particularly engaging as Emma, his supportive wife, never once wavering in her love for her broken husband.

As Mattie continues his rehabilitation the inevitable reunion with his previously vanquished opponent Bryte played by Anthony Welsh is also particularly effective. Bryte also appearing to be irreparably damaged and traumatised by what has happened.

So despite it being an interesting and worthy film, clearly made with love, there is too much old familiar ground trodden and ultimately something unfulfilling about this particular cinematic Journeyman.

Frank Gardiner

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