Review: Sheffield-based boxing drama Journeyman (plus Q&A with Paddy Considine)
Filmaker, and actor of Bourne Ultimatum and Peaky Blinder’s fame, Paddy Considine’s latest release sees him turn the camera on our own city for the setting of his boxing drama. In a sneak peek screening at the Showroom ahead of the film’s UK release on March 30th, the man himself answers our film reviewer Cal Reid (and other audience members’) burning questions in a post-film Q&A.
Those who know Considine for his work with Shane Meadows in ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’, and in big-budget Hollywood pictures like ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’ and ‘Child 44’ might not be aware of his filmaking credentials. Gaining critical acclaim for his powerful directorial debut ‘Tyrannosaur’ in 2011, the news of his second feature has many excited to see what’s in store.
So, what’s it about?
‘Journeyman’ begins with middleweight boxing-champion Matty Burton training for his next match. A fighter who adores his wife (played beautifully by Jodie Whittaker) and baby-girl Mia, he is fighting to defend his title from an up-and-coming young boxer (Anthony Welsh) who proclaims himself as ‘the future’ of middleweight boxing.
Following a brutal match, where the older Matty successfully maintains his champion status, he returns home to his wife and child dying for a cup of tea. Everything seems well, until Matty suddenly succumbs to the blows inflicted on him from the fight. We cut to Matty being taken out of hospital by his wife, a gasp-inducing scar on one side of his head. What fellows is an intensely powerful experience, as we see Matty and those around him embark on the greatest fight of his life; trying to get back a part of who he was.
The film is a very moving and clearly well-researched piece, driven on the most part by Considine’s immersive performance as Matty. What impressed me the most about the performance was how sensitively and believably he captured the mannerisms of mentally challenged individual. In the past I’ve often found that actors who take on these sorts of roles, without intention, end up creating ridiculous and borderline-offensive performances (Tom Hanks and Sean Penn spring to mind).
Throughout the film as Matty manages to regain certain aspects of his life, we vividly feel the strain and the force with which he’s struggling to get these pieces back together. Equally, we feel a great deal of sympathy towards those around him, particularly his wife Emma who must cope with looking after their baby and a husband who needs the same level of care.
I asked Considine if he found playing such a complex role challenging whilst also directing, to which he replied the most difficult part wasn’t the performance so much, it was creating the opening fight scenes and making them look genuine. An aspect he didn’t feel is captured the same way in cinema as it is in the ring.
Thinking of previous boxing films, Considine is quite right. It’s especially true if one looks at any of the ‘Rocky’ franchise entries, or even a more down-to-earth film like ‘Southpaw’. Fortunately, ‘Journeyman’ is unique in this regard, making you feel like you are watching a televised fight, devoid of any exaggerated sound effects or dramatic score.
Considine spoke about a great love of boxing from a young age, and mentioned that the script had been in development for some time. What surprised me was that he never originally intended for the character to suffer a mental injury, but that it took its own direction whilst he was writing. Having watched the film, I felt as though we were made to feel as if the greatest fight for any boxer came after the ring, even without suffering any injuries as serious as Matty’s. Something Considine confirmed later in the interview.
One audience member questioned Considine about whether he felt there should be greater safety measures put in place in boxing, and whether he had any strong feelings on the effects of the sport. Considering the tone of the film, it is possible to see this as some kind of warning about the impact it has on fighters, or even a critique of the sport.
Considine however, said that the film, despite its subject matter, is not about condemning the sport. At the end, we see that the film respects the sport and the courage of its fighters who go out and make something of themselves despite the risks.
Journeyman is a wonderful piece of cinema, driven by extraordinary performances from all its cast, ranking among the best and the most unique of the many boxing dramas in film.
Journeyman is showing at Showroom Cinema from Friday 30th March, find times and tickets here.