Middle-aged and approaching the end of his career, middleweight boxing champ Matty Burton (Paddy Considine) is a journeyman fighter; a reliable, but not outstanding or particularly talented, professional boxer. A devoted husband and father, his main focus is on building a safe, secure future for loving wife Emma (Jodie Whittaker) and their baby daughter Mia while honouring the legacy of his deceased trainer father.

 

On the virtual eve of his retirement, Matty accepts one last fight; a defence of his title against a much younger, ruthless, cocky challenger Andre (Anthony Welsh), who tries to psych him out before the bout by relentlessly insulting him at the pre-fight press conference and weigh-in.

 

After triumphing over his younger opponent however, winning the gruelling, punishing grudge-match on points, Matty collapses at home, having suffered a devastating, near fatal, brain injury in the ring.

 

Emerging from a coma with significant damage to his cognitive function and memory as well as partial paralysis and violent mood swings, Matty and Emma discover his greatest fight is still ahead of him…

 

While you need look no further than 2017’s Johnny Harris-scripted Jawbone to know that tales of washed-up, middle-aged fighters are a celluloid cliche that never grows old, there’s no denying that star Paddy Considine’s second feature as writer/director after 2011’s bleak, gritty Tyrannosaur, is a powerful and heartfelt affair. The script may not be subtle, pushing buttons like a 3-year-old in an elevator, but the film is beautifully composed and the performances are masterful, particularly from incoming Doctor Who Jodie Whittaker whose sympathetic turn as the loving wife pushed to breaking point by a husband who has become a stranger is powerful and affecting, Considine giving his characters room to breathe and evolve even as he takes centre stage and ignores Tropic Thunder’s advice by going “full retard.”

 

Don’t get me wrong, Considine’s performance is wonderful, forgoing the expected tics and stutters, to deliver a sympathetic, nuanced portrait of a man who remembers just enough of who and what he was to realise just what he has lost and the script, thankfully, never blunders into “special and brave” territory. Considine’s Matty is no noble, suffering saint triumphing over adversity; refreshingly, he’s a man who’s been dealt a shitty hand, who is frustrated, who rages, lashing out at loved ones, the world, himself.

 

But, full disclosure, as a disabled person, particularly one with experience of traumatic brain injury not dissimilar to that of Considine’s character, Journeyman is a difficult, even painful film to watch and a harder one to review. From a political standpoint, I can’t ignore the spectre of ‘blackface’ looming over the film. As a disabled writer, one who in a previous life edited a disability arts and culture magazine and was the one-time director of the London International Disability Film Festival, a film festival which championed disabled filmmaking talent and disabled voices, I am fundamentally opposed to non-disabled actors ‘blacking up’ to play disabled characters, appropriating our lives and experiences.

 

But. And it’s an important but. Journeyman may be many things but it isn’t the loathsome euthanasia porn of Me Before You, a celluloid hate crime which negates the disabled experience, reduces our lives to shallow plot devices in the personal growth of shallow romantic heroines. Considine is a thoughtful, intelligent, important filmmaker and Journeyman is a powerful and sympathetic piece of work. Which is why I found the film so painful to watch, so difficult to review.

 

Journeyman, my personal disability politics aside, is a flawed but honest film, one which speaks to the truth of my life and the lives and experiences of disabled people like me.
DVD Review: Journeyman
4.0Overall Score
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  • disqus_JkC5Geydhn

    I can’t wait to see this film, especially since Whittaker is the next Doctor. Thanks for writing/posting this and God bless you 🙂