LFF Review: Paddy Considine's 'Journeyman' is an Emotional Journey
by Alex Billington
October 19, 2017
This is not a boxing film. Though it is about a boxer, and involves a major boxing match, it is not a boxing film. Journeyman, the latest feature written and directed by English actor Paddy Considine, is actually a heartwrenching drama about the struggle of those with mental disabilities. Considine plays every role - he writes, directs, and stars in this film as Matty Burton, a famed boxer who decides to go for one last match with a wise-mouth up-and-comer. This film is really not about how the match turns out, that doesn't really even matter, and while we do get to watch the match, it is what comes after that matters. That's what this film is actually about, and it is an impressive, emotional journey through one man's struggle to stay himself.
Considine's Journeyman sets up the story by first giving us time to get to know Matty, who is married to a caring lovely wife, as played by Jodie Whittaker. His father has recently passed away, but he carries on his legacy as a champion boxer. They also recently had a baby, and everyone loves each other. After his final highly-publicized match, Matty returns home and everything seems to be fine, until one day he suddenly passes out. Something went wrong in his brain after so many hits to the head, and after a surgery they don't talk about, he returns home with a seriously diminished mental capacity, barely able to speak or move. What I appreciate about this film is that it keeps the focus on Matty and his family entirely, and doesn't stray to other places like the hospital or boxing gym or news desks or anywhere else. It's all about him & his family.
On one hand, I am glad Considine keeps the focus on Matty specifically. On the other hand, we never get to understand the scope of the situation, and we never get any feeling of depth throughout the film. By the end, while there's much to appreciate about the film, it didn't hit me hard enough to actually leave a mark. In the second half, when Matty desperately needs the support of his friends, they come to his aid fairly quickly. It's a simple, straight-forward story being told intimately and Considine doesn't make it too complex with other characters that could pull the film in other directions. This intense focus is both effective and limiting, and works to help make the emotions stronger, but also prevents the film from having a truly profound impact on audiences. That said, there are a few very emotional moments that will definitely hit many viewers hard.
Journeyman is, above all else, a brave film about the struggles of disability and how love and friendship and understanding and compassion can make the biggest differences in the lives of so many people. It is very similar to Chloe Zhao's The Rider (which I saw a few hours before on the same day) in the way it portrays a sportsman dealing with a head injury that prevents him from doing what he loves. It also features a nice, light score composed by Harry Escott that never gets in the way of any of the storytelling. Journeyman proves, once again, that Paddy Considine is an immensely talented storyteller, actor, and emotional human trying to remind us how important it is to stay strong and love unconditionally no matter how tough it gets.
Alex's London 2017 Rating: 8 out of 10
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