Journeyman - DVD Review

'As emotionally punishing and dramatically satisfying as Considine's directorial debut Tyrannosaur'

Mark Kermode likes to remind his audience every so often that Jaws may be a film with a shark in it, but it isn't a film about a shark. This isn't a review of Jaws, so I'll leave it up to you whether or not you want to discover what Kermode thinks Spielberg's film is actually about - preferably after reading this review, if you don't mind.

The reason I mention this is because Journeyman has a similar relationship with boxing: the central character may be a boxer, but the film isn't actually about the sport. The title refers to Matty Burton's (Paddy Considine) status as a proficient and popular fighter who has never managed to make it truly big - we learn early on that his WBO title was won on a technicality rather than a definitive victory. But it soon takes on an additional and far more weighty meaning as Matty suffers a devastating head injury, from which both the medical and personal roads to recovery are long and far from easy.

It's a shame then that Considine as writer and director takes a bit too long to realise Journeyman isn't a boxing story, making the first fifteen minutes of his film an unremarkable opening chapter which establishes Matty's professional life and concludes with a boxing match that fails to engage in the way boxing's legacy on the big screen proves that it can. The dialogue here at times feels particularly stilted: brash opponent Andre Bryte (Anthony Welsh) ominously describes the match as a "life-changer" for Matty several times in multiple scenes, telegraphing for anyone who might have missed it that this is the point at which a major plot development is going to happen.

It's to Considine's immense credit therefore that, beyond this opening section, Journeyman shifts up several gears to deliver an experience as emotionally punishing and dramatically satisfying as his directorial debut Tyrannosaur. The film never holds back in showing the aftermath of Matty's injury for him, his wife Emma (Jodie Whittaker) and their infant daughter Mia, the couple struggling to come to terms with the challenges they now face both individually and together.

Whilst Considine's direction feels far more assured here than earlier, it's the flawless performances he and Whittaker deliver which make the film such a compelling, heartbreaking watch. Considine in particular makes Matty's transformation in the weeks and months following his injury both sensitive and believable; slowly bringing back enough of the version of the man he plays at the start, without ever hinting that an artificial fairytale ending might be on the cards.

That said, Journeyman does allow sentimentality creep in as the story nears its conclusion, something which fans of Tyrannosaur may find more difficult to accept than the more hard-hitting scenes of the film's middle act. But, thanks to the fine work of Considine both in front of and behind the camera, the film has by this point earned the emotional conclusion it offers.

Journeyman was released on UK DVD, Blu-ray and digital download on Monday 30th July.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a contributing editor at Film Intel. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. When he's not writing about films here, Ben is usually writing about films - mostly Shakespeare adaptations - for his PhD. He's also on and Twitter.

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