DIRECTOR: Paddy Considine
CAST: Paddy Considine, Jodie Whittaker, Paul Popplewell, Tony Pitts, Anthony Welsh
RUNNING TIME: 92 mins
BASICALLY…: A boxer (Considine) suffers a brain injury during his final fight, and is left with memory loss and his personality altered which affects his entire life…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
Paddy Considine may best be known as an actor, but behind the camera he has twice now proven that he’s a seriously powerful storyteller who’s well on his way to being up there with some of the other great actors-turned-directors. His first feature Tyrannosaur, adapted from his short film Dog Altogether, was a gut-punching drama with themes of anger and abuse that rendered that film as tough to stomach as it was emotionally brutal. That film was released over five years ago, so Considine has taken his sweet time putting together his long-awaited sophomore film as both writer and director, and given the end results on Journeyman, it was well worth the wait.
Considine also stars in the film as Matty Burton, a boxer on the cusp of retirement with a loving wife Emma (Jodie Whittaker) and an infant daughter by his side. During his final title-defending match against his arrogant opponent Andre (Anthony Welsh), he suffers a series of brutal punches to the head, which result in him suddenly collapsing when he returns home. This is when the story proper kicks in; Matty is left with severe brain damage, with the vocal skills of a toddler and barely any memory of the man he once was. Emma is now tasked with caring for her husband, who is virtually unrecognisable with his altered personality, impaired speech skills, and some disturbing outbursts of sudden violence when things don’t go his way. Despite some serious – and I’m not messing around when I say “serious” – challenges to his redevelopment, Matty resolves to become as close to who he used to be as he possibly can.
Despite it being partially sold as a sports movie, the kind that sees a figure in sports overcome a setback only to score a victory in the climax, it’s really not; while there is a boxing match in the film, and a pretty hardcore one at that, it’s all over and done with in the first act, and the rest of the film is focused on this character recovering from his serious injury. This is more so a character-driven drama that just happens to have boxing in it, and like the best of them it presents a tough situation for them to be in, and slowly but surely sees them figuring their way around it, but crucially you’re also emotionally invested because everything is so legitimately heartbreaking. Considine, as a filmmaker, really nails that heartbreak as you first see this guy be a genuinely good person, devoted to his family, humble whilst promoting his matches, and being a generally likable guy, but then when he receives his head injury all of that is suddenly altered to something far different, doing things that will seriously shock you when you know that this is not how the man he used to be would act. It’s all done with solid writing that neatly sets out a believable path that not just Matty but other people around him would follow without necessarily seeming out of character, and some gut-wrenching direction that tightly focuses on characters’ faces to show all of their heartbreak in all its raw and deeply effective glory. Considine is no less powerful at the craft than he was during Tyrannosaur, and he has made a follow-up film that shows he’s more than up to the task when it comes to powerful human drama.
Naturally, being an actor himself, he is also rather good at directing his performers to delivering exactly the right emotions at the right time, and seeing how this is also his first time acting in front of the camera as well as operating behind it, he’s nothing if not an efficient multi-tasker. Considine obviously has the meatiest role in the film, and he delivers everything that the character should be in a powerhouse performance of emotion and instability, whilst also perfectly replicating what it must be like to have the damaged mindset that this character ends up having. He’s utterly brilliant in the film, as is Jodie Whittaker who probably won’t receive as much credit as she deserves for playing someone thrust into a near hopeless situation, but by God she is a wonderful actress who really makes you feel for this incredibly torn person, even when she may do things you don’t necessarily agree with at first but then realise it makes absolute sense why she would do it. There’s really not many other speaking roles in the film, aside from a few of Matty’s closest friends as well as a character who comes by later who has just as major a personality shift as the protagonist, only this one’s most certainly for the better; but it ensures that Considine’s focus, as a director, a writer and an actor, is on the severe obstacles that his main character is trying to overcome, and in each one of those roles he more than accomplishes his mission.
The film doesn’t come out until late March – I was lucky enough to attend a preview screening which was programmed in before it was moved from its original February release date – but it doesn’t deserve to be buried under the radar against some of the bigger releases it’s going up against. If you want to see Paddy Considine make more movies as a director – because with only two movies, he’s officially announced himself as a serious new voice in the field – then please go support Journeyman, which is as powerful and emotionally satisfying as you could hope for.
SO, TO SUM UP…
Journeyman is a powerfully told character drama which confirms Paddy Considine as a major talent in the directing and writing fields, not to mention how strong an actor he is in a heartbreaking lead performance that’s as near-flawless as his filmmaking skills.