Directed by Paddy Considine.
Starring Paddy Considine, Jodie Whittaker, Paul Popplewell, Tony Pitts, and Anthony Welsh.
Middleweight boxing champion of the world, Matty Burton, faces the biggest fight of his career when a life threatening injury irreparably changes him and his family.
The prospect of another boxing movie so soon after Creed, Southpaw, and Bleed for This might have your eyes rolling into the back of your head like one of Matty Burton’s (Paddy Considine) canvas bound opponents.
For the first twenty minutes that worry is fully justified, with Considine’s sophomore effort, following the stunning Tyrannosaur, feeling worryingly featherweight. The sporting environment is recreated as though it’s broadcasting on a higher-numbered digital channel, in other words, it’s a little bit rubbish, with boxing personalities (Steve Bunce) given prominent roles to increase the authenticity. It doesn’t really work
With the boxing movie sub-genre so saturated, from the top rope heights of Raging Bull, right down to the overcooked melodrama of Cinderella Man, striving for originality in the ring is so difficult when you have to dodge clichés left, right, and centre. Thankfully, after a wobbly opening, Journeyman evolves into a film that you weren’t expecting, one that shines a spotlight on the outstanding Jodie Whittaker.
Having just defended his title against a much younger opponent (Anthony Welsh), Matty returns home to begin what’s feels like his retirement. He has a loving wife (Jodie Whittaker), a newborn baby girl, and a sporting legacy. However, he’s delivered one final blow from the boxing ring when he suffers huge brain trauma, starting him down a rocky road to recovery, which might completely K.O. the former champ.
As a sports movie, Journeyman is flawed, but as a character piece, a human study, it’s exceptional. Considine gets the headline role, as a man trapped inside a biological prison, he is simply heartbreaking. It’s an unflinching performance, with nothing sugar-coated about Matty’s suffering. You might not have felt the punches from the rather sterile way the sporting action plays out, but the burgeoning frustration of the former strong man, and how it manifests in some truly shocking ways, is testament to the lengths Considine has gone to immerse himself into the role.
There is a moment during which he shares a phone call with his wife, which should this get the awards recognition it deserves, in which the camera holds on Considine for a brutally uncomfortable amount of time as he tries to summon the pained words to express himself. Sniffles will accompany the sound of your own internal mechanisms breaking. It’s that good.
For all of Considine’s impressive affectations, it’s the actor on the other end of the phone call who steals the movie. Thirteenth Doctor Who, Jodie Whittaker does most of the emotional lifting as the stand-by-her-man hero of the film. She completely grounds the Journeyman, preventing it from ever straying too far into mawkish territory. The struggle is as much about her, and Whittaker keeps a human face on proceedings throughout, bringing as much levity as sincerity. Together they make a couple worth fighting for.
Journeyman survives the standing count of being a mediocre sports movie to surprise you with an intimate character study featuring two heavyweight performances.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★★ / Movie ★★★★