Journeyman is a film about boxing and identity. The film wears both firmly on its sleeve in a way that at times negatively impacts it. A film concerned about hammering its message in at times that it turns from a film about picking yourself back up again to a claustrophobic look at the human brain.
Matty (Paddy Considine acting and directing) is the Middleweight champion boxer but after a fight against Andre “The Future” (Antony Welsh) he sustains a brain injury. His wife Emma (Jodie Whittaker) is left to pick up the pieces and try and see if the man she loved is still there as his support system leaves them both behind.
Unfortunately, this film just felt hollow. Despite three incredible performances from Considine, Whittaker, and Welsh the script really lets them down. What the film excels at however are the scenes with Matty trying to communicate with Emma. His portrayal of someone struggling to find himself after serious brain damage was incredible and very believable. The way his frustration bubbles over was both scary and sad in a way that had you on the edge of your seat.
As the film starts to become claustrophobic and the world folds in on Matty and Emma I kept thinking and comparing it to Michel Franco’s Chronic (2015). I’m not sure that’s a flattering comparison for Journeyman as Chronic just felt more believable. A real negative for Journeyman is the lack of medical help that is ever seen around Matty’s family. We see him in physio and speech therapy but never once with a doctor or nurse outside these two things. Even in the hospital sequences, the places seem empty and instead of feeling like a conscious choice, it just feels like a glaring omission.
One of the big problems feels like the film is trying to be a biopic. It feels like a biopic but simply without a real subject and that affects it negatively. Matty at one point delivers a speech that is poignant and fantastic but somehow just adds to the level of artifice this film has built. It just feels tacked on and reminded me a lot of an after-school special.
However, somehow cutting through that was a fantastic performance. That scene may be cloaked in syrupy sweetness but somehow Antony Welsh cuts through it. I was shocked at how brilliant he was throughout and am hopeful that this film means we get to see more of him in the future.
Overall Journeyman gives us no firm answers. Matty’s life never returns to normal. Everyone who Matty touches is left with it marked on them too but I fear Journeyman simply never makes the reach to impacting the audience too.