Journeyman

Reigning and ageing British boxing champ Matty Burton (Paddy Considine) faces one last fight to cement his status against a younger emerging widemouthed upstart. Matty is a respectful loving father to his baby daughter Mia and husband to Emma (Jodie Whittaker). An all round nice guy.

After a gruelling fight, the trauma of the heavy received blows lead him to needing emergency treatment, which result in brain injuries that affect his memory, speech, bodily functions and behaviour. The Matty of old is lost but Emma is devoted to helping him recover. But when he starts to become violent and threaten the safety of his child, Emma leaves and it is up to his former ringside trainers (Tony Pitts and Paul Popplewell)to help him on his journey of recovery to win back his wife and child.

When Paddy Considine made Tyranosaur, it was the announcement that Considine was more than a good versatile actor, but an exciting writer director that could really bring to life very dark and human tragedies in what is still one of the finest British films of this decade. So it’s really hard to believe that he has seemingly got this so wrong. The script and direction leaves you waiting a considerable time before you’re left with a heart in the mouth moment. When it does happen it is very chilling, but it’s hard to buy as you know it’s coming and really you question the logic of his wife to leave him with their baby unsupervised giving his irrational and potential dangerous behaviour. It’s also inexplicable that his ringside trainers and friends are mysteriously absent in not offering assistance or being in touch immediately after the operation. You’re left uncertain whether they know his circumstance or purposely relinquishing themselves from a sense of responsibility, although one scene with Tony Pitts . It’s too quick a turnaround when they do step in to help. It’s also seemingly a leap of logic that Matty can’t remember to make a cup of tea or his friends’ names but can find his trainer’s gym whilst suffering with hypothermia. And from the moment his friends do come aboard, there’s next to no suspense in plot or narrative to the eventual outcome. The lack of dramatic turns just render Journeyman as overly sentimental that maybe is trying to reflect a more honest picture of brain injury trauma suffered by some boxers, which never threatens to bring the sport into question. Equally baffling is the somewhat absence of care from health professionals that would seem much more prominent in the development and rehabilitation of someone who has suffered a severe brain injury.

Visually the whole piece feels arrested, cold and bland. Maybe to enforce the sense of verisimilitude but giving some questionable logic in the script, it never feels genuine. It’s quiet sh aame giving how pale this compares to the brilliance of his first time written and directed feature, that makes you think whether by taking the lead role, whether Considine could have done with taking a step back to see the bigger picture.

★★

Chris Aitken