Journeyman, written and directed by Paddy Considine, is not an easy watch. Not because it’s bad. Far from it. It’s because of Considine’s ability as both a writer and a director to tap into the real hardships that people face and then focus fully in on it. He writes stories that are tough and have no easy solution. He creates characters that can be challenging and not always the people you want them to be. Like I said, Journeyman is not easy watch – and it will certainly not be a film that everyone has the fortitude for – but there’s a powerful experience in Journeyman, and one I’m interested to talk about. So, let’s find out if this is a film for you.
Accomplished boxer, Matty Burton – played by Paddy Considine – suffers a serious head injury during a fight that has life changing consequences. His wife, Emma – played by Jodie Whittaker – struggles to cope, as she now must care for her husband – who is at times a stranger to her – and also their baby. It will not be an easy journey for any involved.
I watch a lot of films and because of that I’ve pretty much reached my fill of boxing films. In recent memory, only Creed – directed by Ryan Coogler – was able to make an impact on me, and what an impact that was; that film is truly sublime. So when I initially saw the trailer for Journeyman, I wasn’t that eager to see it. It was purely because it was written and directed by Paddy Considine – a person whose work I love and respect – that I found myself sitting in the cinema readying to watch it – and I’m glad I did.
Journeyman is less a boxing film and more a personal character study of both a husband/father trying to find himself again; trying desperately to return to the man he once was. And a wife, who is desperately trying to bring back the man she loves.
Both Paddy Considine and Jodie Whittaker take on what are daunting performances in an impossibly hard and difficult to traverse situation. I have infinite amounts of respect for the two of them and what they achieved in this film.
Matty Burton (Paddy Considine) is a confident, respectful man who is filled with love for his family and friends. They are his world; the people he puts before himself. So to watch what happens to him and who he becomes is not easy – for the people closest to him and also we the audience. He is robbed of his memories – he forgets who his daughter is, who his friends are. Simple tasks, like making a cup of tea, are a struggle. He lashes out because of this; he hurts people who are closest to him, and it’s really upsetting to see. He is no longer that man he once was, and he may never be again. It’s heart breaking.
Paddy Considine embodies these struggles and delivers an overwhelmingly emotional performance. There are little nuances to how he plays the character. A particular movement of the hand or how he now speaks. There was a clear effort by Considine to find the physical language of the character first, and then have it be a guide for the rest of the character to come from. It’s a performance that pulls you in. It shocks you, it emotionally pains you and you can’t escape its raw power.
But Paddy Considine doesn’t shoulder the weight and the struggle of the film by himself. Jodie Whittaker’s character, Emma goes through just as much of a struggle as Matty does. While it’s painful to see Matty lose who he is. It’s also extremely painful to watch Emma try to cope with it all. She takes on the full brunt of the situation and tackles impossibly hard moments. To see your once strong and confident husband struggle to do something as simple as go to the toilet correctly, is something that tears into your heart and breaks it.
Jodie Whittaker’s performance in the film is a further example of how fearless and strong she is as an actress. She has some extremely heavy lifting to do, from a performance standpoint, and I found myself sitting there enraptured by the level of seemingly effortless work she was putting in. As an actress, I find myself respecting her more and more. Her work in the British TV show, Broadchurch, was my first time getting to experience her talent in the craft, and I’m really excited to see what she’s going to do as the new Doctor, in Doctor Who. I’m almost tempted to say that she is a lot of the reason why I found this film so effecting. She really does bring this film together with her performance.
Journeyman is a deeply character driven film. From a narrative standpoint its pretty straightforward. Paddy Considine is a creator who likes to put his focus on people. His previous film, Tyrannosaur, was an unforgiving look at a man who was seemingly irredeemable. His films never hold back; there is no Hollywood sheen to his films where you’re left feeling happy and fulfilled inside. His British made films shine a light on the unfortunately true side to the country and it’s great to see a homegrown talent push film to its breaking points.
This is a film that takes hold of your attention and doesn’t allow it to waver. It won’t hold your hand and guide you through a challenging but ultimately sweet story. It goes into the dark places and it brings you along whether you are ready or not. It breaks you down emotionally – and similar to Matty – you have to learn to build yourself back up. While I was emotionally uncomfortable when watching Journeyman; I was still fully invested and caring about the people I was watching on-screen. I know this film won’t be something everyone can handle, but it’s British films like this that show the breadth and the talent of the people on our little island. I don’t know when it will be, but I very much look forward to seeing more of what Paddy Considine will do behind the camera. What an incredible talent he is.
I fully recommend, Journeyman. It’s raw emotional journey will be difficult, but in my opinion, completely worth it. You won’t leave feeling necessarily great inside, but you will leave having experienced a film that will have made its mark on you. I also fully recommend that you explore more of Paddy Considine’s films, as he is a tremendous filmmaker.
I’d love to know what you thought of Journeyman and my review of it. So please leave any opinions or feedback you may have, in the comments section down below. Also, I would really appreciate it if you would give both my blog and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings – a follow. But I’ll stop asking things of you now and instead bring things to a close by saying thank you to you. You took the time to read this and that means a whole lot to me, so again, thank you!