Film Review: Journeyman

A Paddy Considine Film

There aren’t many words, at the start of a movie, that bring an instant rush of pure love and respect to the heart, soul and mind than the above title ‘A Paddy Considine Film’. A rightly constantly busy actor traversing from big to small screen and back again, equally comfortable and commanding or vulnerable no matter the role, and always a delight to see regardless how brief his appearance may be. He also sings in his band Riding the Low and when he’s not on a gig stage, he could be found on the theatre stage in ‘The Ferry’, so all in all a very busy man.

In 2011 he unleashed the cruel beast of a movie that is ‘Tyrannosaur’ which he wrote and directed. It was his first feature, but it played like a seasoned director who had decades of experience to mine from. Starring the phenomenal Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman, it is a brutal but all too realistic insight into violence that exists in many relationships. It might be painful to watch, but it’s incredible and essential work from everyone involved, but particularly Paddy who is seemingly drawn to the all too human fractures that permeate society and individuals.

I was fortunate enough to have seen an early screening of his second movie ‘Journeyman’ (2017) way back in October last year before it’s March 2018 release, and I have pretty much thought about it in some aspect every day since.

Once again Paddy has taken on the role of writer, director and this time ups his own ante by starring in the lead role, which only adds to the awe of the mountains he has climbed to pull off this instant classic of a film.

I went into ‘Journeyman’ with basically zero knowledge other than boxing was involved. Obliviously I knew Paddy was leading it, and that cinematographer Laurie Rose was involved too. Laurie being the go to DOP for Ben Wheatley and has created visually stunning work for every project he has been involved with. There was the added bonus that the wonderful and forthcoming new Doctor (Doctor Who) Jodie Whittaker was on board too. All in all, on paper it promised great potential, and did it pay off? HOLY CHRIST YES!

It’s being pitched as a boxing movie and that does the movie a slight disservice, indeed boxing is the starting point for the story that unwraps, but it is just a device to catalyse the actual human journey. It’s also the case that boxing movies are notoriously difficult to choreograph with realism. Paddy having trained for only seven weeks for the movie, there wasn’t really going to a complete believability in the ring moments, but given those are very brief segments, it’s not an issue.

Paddy plays Matty Burton, a successful and not so youthful World Champion boxer who is about to defend his title against a very fast and ambitious young boxer Andre ‘The Future’ Bryte (Anthony Welsh). Matty feels it will be his last fight, securing his right to the No1 position and then he can settle down to enjoy life with his beautiful new daughter with his wife Emma (Jodie).

The movie shrewdly starts off setting up the gorgeous and idyllic home life, effectively setting up what is about to all come brutally crashing down. Paddy and Jodie are just incredible together, with an instant chemistry that makes it all they more poignant and upsetting when life starts blind siding them, the amount of times you just want to jump into the screen to help them is ridiculous, but brilliant story telling.

Matty experiences some medical issues that effectively transform him into the mind-set of a child. The once proud and strong man that Emma has chosen to spend her life with, is now just a memory. This is were the real journey begins.

Despite the boxing at the beginning of the movie, this is also where the real fight begins. Whatever inner strengths, peak fitness and regular training an individual endures to achieve greatness, nothing can train you for events like this. It instantly grounds everyone to the same level, the trauma doesn’t care about your background or success, it is cruel, and becomes vicious.

It’s an emotionally tough movie, that brilliantly exposes the fallacies we present to ourselves and each other every day. That old adage of tough times defining who your real friends are cruelly rings true as previous support mechanisms disappear, with Emma having to pick up the mantle, relentlessly caring for the two loves in her life, but the toil is all too real and relentless.

With a beautiful honesty it is about life, it’s difficulties, it’s challenges, the highs and the brutal lows, but most importantly the perseverance to get up off the canvas to swing again, or even just to be able to stand. It pulls no punches at all, creating in particular a heartfelt observation of male friendships, in how ‘blokes’ deal with, or more realistically don’t deal with certain situations too well.

Somewhat bleak (ie realistic), but absolutely life affirming and heartwarming. Thanks to the performances all round it gets away with a relatively familiar setup being turned into a journey for the viewer too. It’s truly heartbreaking at times, but completely BEAUTIFUL nonetheless. I had wondered is watching it again would dilute any of the emotions from the cinema, if anything it actually intensified them. On the second viewing I was able to pay even more attention to the fantastic heart wrenching subtlety of Paddy’s performance, but also the naturalness of all the characters involved. No one is playing for Oscars here, this is genuine and all too realistic, which is a true credit to the team.

The levels of acting are matched with the beautiful cinematography that just enhance the emotions tenfold, and a heart string tugging score by Harry Escott that again only makes everything all the more overwhelming at times.

It’s an incredible movie all round with such sincere poignancy, intelligence, empathy and craft that you don’t see that often, so like the things you care about most in you life, you just want to pick it up and give it a huge hug and treasure every moment of it, as it won’t last forever. It also shows how much we REALLY need for Paddy to be making more movies, he is clearly a vital talent in front and behind the camera, and indeed writing these universal stories, let’s hope he has many more journeys to take us on.

9/10 ‘Journeyman’ is available now on Blu-ray, DVD, digital download and VOD.

Steve Clarke

Born in Celtic lands, nurtured in art college, trained by the BBC, inspired by Hunter S. Thompson and released onto the battlefront of all things interesting/inspiring/good vibes... people, movies, music, clubbing, revolution, gigs, festivals, books, art, theatre, painting and trying to find letters on keyboards in the name of flushthefashion. Making sure it's not quite on the western front... and beyond.