Paddy Considine’s second feature directorial effort has been some time coming – although not for the want of trying – but it’s proven worth the wait. Journeyman is a tidier film, narratively, than his superb feature debut as director, Tyrannosaur. But there’s no less honesty, rawness and compelling cinema here.
Considine takes the lead role this time as Matty, a boxer who’s won his title as much by technicality as outright merit. That’s certainly the view anyway of his upcoming opponent, Andre Bryte, a young upcoming contender who trash talks his way through their press conference, and leaves Matty in little doubt as to what he thinks of him.
Considine certainly knows his boxing movies too, and as such, when he comes to the bout itself, he plays with expectations, and makes sure his metaphorical and literal punches land. But the film is then more interested in the aftermath of the fight, on the impact it has on Matty, his wife Emma – played superbly by Jodie Whittaker – and their young daughter.
For boxing has ramifications for Matty, and Journeyman explores those with real force and impact. It’s in the middle section of the film where it’s at its most magnetic, with Considine using pauses, silences, longform sequences and effective dialogue to ratchet up tension, atmosphere and drama. The scenes Considine and Whittaker share are particularly affecting, and expertly played. Whittaker’s character takes a little bit more of a backseat as the movie progresses, and her absence if felt. But then Considine does have more to explore, and a keenness to tell a complete story that feels rarer than perhaps it should.
Considine’s lead performance is quite outstanding, too, and what I really liked is that he finds space to make supporting characters matter. Take Andre, for instance, the young boxing contender. In a big Hollywood movie, Andre would just be a device. Here, he’s a character, and one of importance to the emotional beats of the movie.
There are moments within Journeyman that hit as hard as anything I’ve seen on a cinema screen this far, with certain parts of the film that have stuck firmly in my head. But also, there are simple lines, cries for friendship, and large strands of humanity, that also shine through. Considine has described it at heart as a love story, and I do see that. It’s a hard one, though, but that in turn means that its heart matters, and the impact on its characters matter.
It’s impressive that within the confines of a boxing movie with a fairly traditional narrative platform, Considine has found areas to explore, and a story to tell, that feel so compelling. Journeyman really is a strong piece of work, from a man who, both in front of and behind the camera, continues to really, really impress. Strongly recommended.
Journeyman is in UK cinemas now.