STARRING: Paddy Considine, Jodie Whittaker, Anthony Welsh, Paul Popplewell, Tony Pitts, Kell Brook, Steve Bunce and Brendan Ingle
Boxer Matty Burton suffers a serious head injury during a fight. It is about the impact this has on his marriage, his life and and his family.
The film follows middleweight boxing champion Matty Burton, who is approaching the end of his career and aims at winning the next bout against the controversial Andre Bryte to get the money and call it quits, setting himself and his family up for life after boxing. After his bout with Bryte, Matty has a delayed reaction to a devastating punch and collapses in the living room. Awaking from his trauma, the real fight for Matty begins as he suffers from memory loss and his personality altered, he slowly tries to piece his life back together as his world disintegrates.
Following up from his 2011 directorial feature debut Tyrannosaur, Paddy Considine also writes and stars in Journeyman as Matty Burton, a middleweight boxing champion who is set to take on the young, hungry and controversial challenger Andre Bryte. As he retains the title after a brutal bout, he suffers a delayed reaction from the devastating punches he took and collapses in the living room. As he awakes from his coma, he’s suffering from a life-changing brain injury, leading him to suffering from memory loss and his personality altered. Matty attempts to put his life together as his wife Emma feels the strain of being his carer.
Journeyman follows the normal beats of the best sports dramas, in that it’s not about the actual sport itself but the people that participate in it and how it affects them and their families, friends etc. The film gives us a glimpse into the life of a professional boxer having to deal with the consequences of the hard blows dealt with in such a competitive sport and handles it in such a way that makes it somewhat fresh compared to other boxing dramas. The boxing sequences are kept to a bare minimum, showcasing the bout between Matty and Andre that leads to Matty’s delayed brain trauma that takes away part of his memory and changes his personality. The boxing sequence is fine, but the film really comes into its element whenever we follow Matty’s wife, Emma, trying to keep it together in maintaining a stable presence as she acts as Matty’s carer and also take care of their young daughter Mia. There’s some beautiful shots captured here by Laurie Rose and Considine’s direction is also solid throughout. Paddy Considine gives his best performance, probably since Dead Man’s Shoes and In America it could be argued, as Matty Burton. He’s a conventional family man, yearning to earn legitimacy as a world champion in the ring rather than on a technicality and in seeing how his character is a shell of his former self provides some heartbreaking performances, impressing with his mannerisms but bringing a sensibility to them that feels authentic. Jodie Whittaker more than holds her own alongside Considine with her performance as Matty’s wife Emma, as she struggles to cope with the challenges of taking care of her husband that’s become a stranger to her and their child. Their chemistry, focusing on their love and pain of the aftermath is what makes the drama compelling viewing. Even Anthony Welsh’s Andre Bryte isn’t as one-dimensional a character that other boxing dramas would make him out to be and in the limited screentime he has I thought he performed the character well.
Journeyman follows a rather conventional narrative form of storytelling in comparison to Considine’s debut Tyrannosaur and for that reason I can see why that hampered certain viewers expectations towards the film, as it lacks the hard hitting punches provided in his debut. Not a knock on what’s brought to the table here, but I can see how some will view it as trading in something that felt authentic to something that’s quite melodramatic, predictable in its narrative beats and the final act does seem rather rushed in its conclusion, particularly when you learn from a line of dialogue how much time has passed. As terrific as her performance is, Whittaker’s Emma Burton takes a backseat during the second half of the film, understandably so, but her absence is felt during the rest of the films runtime as the film takes the angle of his cornermen coming to his aid when he needs it most, but we’re never really given the depth as to why the family and friends of the Burton’s seem to distance themselves after his life-altering injury.
While conventional and melodramatic in its approach, there’s no denying that Paddy Considine puts alot of heart into the script and focusing on a love story disguised as a boxing film, providing an absolutely terrific lead performance as Matty Burton and Jodie Whittaker is gives just as great, if not equal, performance as Emma Burton. It might feel all rushed in the final act, but with the chemistry between Considine and Whittaker and the drama being so compelling, it still packed a heartbreaking, emotional punch. 8/10