Film Review – ‘Journeyman’ (2018)


Release Date: OUT NOW on DVD/Download
Rating: [rating=4]

Paddy Considine’s deeply moving drama about a prominent boxer’s fall from grace and the impact it has on all areas of his life is a transcendent story of hope and triumph. Filled with great performances (not least Considine in the leading role), it’s a captivating tale that you won’t regret watching.

Arriving on DVD with rapturous praise and a strong positive buzz in its wake, ‘Journeyman’ is the latest passion project from writer/director/actor Paddy Considine, who takes on the starring role as Matty Burton. He’s a celebrated boxer doing his best to retain his position and continue providing for his wife Emma (Jodie Whittaker) and infant daughter. In his quest to defend his title, Matty takes on a match with Andre Wright (Anthony Welsh), a rival up-and-comer who is determined to get his own shot at glory. But what follows is a series of events that forces Matty to confront everything he thinks about who he truly is – and embark on what could be the biggest battle of his life.

Journeyman is a film full of surprises, albeit ones anchored in the small, oft overlooked moments of life, and as a result is often at its most powerful in its quietest moments. Matty’s transformation is the biggest example of this – from the earth-shattering moment that he realises his post-fight life will never be the same again, to the rewarding, well-earned conclusion, his story is full of tiny instances of struggle, defeat and triumph as he tries to rebuild his life again.

Paddy Considine gives a heart-breaking performance in the title role, one that doesn’t shrink away from the darker, more sinister fallout of his injuries, making his pursuit of redemption that much more powerful. It’s impossible to mention his role without also talking about Jodie Whittaker’s emotive performance as Emma, his loving wife. Whittaker is brimming with restrained emotion throughout, and her chemistry with Considine always feels heartfelt and convincing. In one scene we witness a difficult phone call between Matty and Emma, a conversation that is at once mundane and moving.

There are other great performances on show, in particular Anthony Welsh as the opposing, ambitious boxer full of bravado. Unlike other similar films exploring the lives of sporting figures, Journeyman goes a long way towards showing the isolation and loneliness of being a professional boxer – both Matty and Anthony struggling under the weight of so much expectation, aware that only one of them can claim the victory.

It’s this showcase of the humanity of all the characters that makes Journeyman such a compelling film, driven not so much by goodies and baddies as by people swept up in situations beyond their control. There’s a certain melodrama in that, which might not be to every viewer’s tastes, but it’s hard to watch the conclusion without feeling moved.

There’s plenty that’s uplifting about Journeyman’s message, as Matty (and many of the other characters) learns a thing or two about which battles are worth fighting. But the result is that Matty feels like a man worth rooting for. In other words? The film is definitely a journey worth taking.

Alex Straker

Drama | UK, 2017 | 15 | Out Now | DVD, Blu-ray | Studiocanal | Dir.Paddy Considine | Paddy Considine, Jodie Whittaker, Tony Pitts