For his second film as both writer and director, Paddy Considine has taken the helm as lead actor as well. In Journeyman, he plays a middleweight boxing champion who sustains a debilitating brain injury after winning the last fight of his career.
It comes as no surprise that Considine can still act anyone under the table. As the initially kind and loving Matty, he pulls off a risky role that could easily have been played to the wrong effect. As he mumbles and shuffles and grasps for words and memories, all as a result of his head trauma, the actor does so in a way that is thankfully impossible to make fun of. The juxtaposition of who Matty was with who he became can’t be made into a joke.
As for his co-star, Jodie Whittaker is outstanding as the protagonist’s poor wife Emma. She conveys the complexity of a woman being confronted with the reality that her gentle husband might never come back to heart-wrenching effect. It is through this portrayal that the first half of the movie outshines the latter by far.
After the shocking and at times violent reality of Matty’s condition comes to a head, Emma’s character unfortunately takes a backseat in the narrative, replaced by her husband’s old trainers – men in Matty’s life who had previously abandoned him. At this point, his recovery is treated similarly to any boxing training montage – the idea apparently being that now he has something to fight for. But this results in a hollow, simplified ending, and one can’t help but wonder why Matty never lashes out physically at or around his male carers as he did with his wife.
For all of these transgressions, there are many things that this film does that should be done more in cinema today. Considine’s characters are intensely human: fallible but empathetic. From the friends who weren’t around when Matty needed them, to the gobby disrespectful opponent who got him in that state in the first place, no-one is perfect. But, in reality, who is?
With Journeyman, Considine creates depth with complex characters, and presents archetypal strong males who aren’t ashamed to cry. It’s a beautifully shot showcase for his talent, and the talent of those around him. It’s just a shame about that second half.
Journeyman is released nationwide on 30th March 2018.
Watch the trailer for Journeyman here: