×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Journeyman’

Paddy Considine's flawed boxing drama can't match the sucker punch of his directorial debut 'Tyrannosaur,' but its lead performances go bone-deep.

Director:
Paddy Considine
With:
Paddy Considine, Jodie Whittaker, Anthony Welsh, Tony Pitts, Paul Popplewell

1 hour 32 minutes

On the face of it, “Journeyman” seems a misnomer of a title for a film about a championship boxer who faces the most grueling challenge of his life after defending his world title at the denouement of his career. A scrappy, up-from-nothing underdog drama it is not. As Paddy Considine’s sophomore directorial effort progresses, however, the title takes on a more literal application: This is very much a film about, wait for it, a man on a journey.

If that sounds well-meaningly corny, well, so to an extent is “Journeyman.” Not close to the stark, bruising experience of Considine’s debut “Tyrannosaur,” this story of a fighter battling the extreme, personality-altering effects of concussion after his final turn in the ring is a film of somewhat soapier suffering, stirring but not always credible in its examination of a marriage and a masculine identity both shattered by a misplaced strike. If Considine doesn’t seem to know his characters as intimately as he did in his debut, however, he still knows acting inside out. It’s his unguarded conviction in the lead — and that of a superb Jodie Whittaker as his devoted but devastated wife — that finally lands “Journeyman” a victory on points, if not quite a knockout blow.

Whittaker’s surging star status as TV’s next Doctor Who lends additional marquee value to “Journeyman,” now finally opening in British cinemas after a quiet domestic festival debut last fall. Yet while the film has a more mainstream, sentimental sensibility than “Tyrannosaur” — deviating from expected boxing-drama form in some ways, but hewing close to a traditional triumph-over-adversity arc — it’s likely to leave less of a mark internationally than its Sundance-premiered, BAFTA-winning predecessor. Where Considine’s debut traded in earthy, gutsy authenticity, there’s something not fully drawn about “Journeyman’s” evocation of a national sporting scene, something a little too sealed and scripted about its domestic melodrama.

“This will be a life-changer for you,” spits cocky up-and-comer Andre Bryte (the impressive Anthony Welsh) at soon-retiring pugilist Matty Burton (Considine) — a reigning world champion thanks to an opponent’s withdrawal — as he prepares to challenge Matty for his title. The veteran ekes out a narrow victory, but with boldfaced irony, Andre’s trash-talking prophecy proves true: A critical head injury sustained in the match requires brain surgery, leaving the champ with severely impaired mental and motor functions. It’s a tragic end to a noble career, but for his doting wife Emma (Whittaker), it’s merely the beginning of a challenging new life together — one that now essentially requires her to mother both the violently inarticulate, exasperated Matty and their infant daughter.

“Journeyman” is at its most intense and involving when concentrated on a marriage in punch-drunk crisis, as Emma increasingly struggles to cope with a husband who has become a stranger to her and himself alike — and their uninvitingly spartan, modern McMansion becomes a veritable deathtrap of sharp corners and on-edge emotions. Considine plunges with tense, typical commitment into the agitated physical and verbal tics of a man who seems at once locked into and out of his own mind.

Whittaker has no less difficult an assignment as a woman exhausted by the challenges of maintaining a stable, nurturing presence while tamping down an inner scream of grief for her vanished husband. She plays it with wrenching, unfussy force — so much so that “Journeyman” loses its way when the film’s center shifts to the less compelling matter of repairing relations with Matty’s estranged professional brethren. Somewhat underpopulated throughout in terms of supporting characters, the film never plausibly accounts for the fact that Matty and Emma are essentially stranded in their plight: Friends and family seem absent at the will of the script alone.

As Whittaker drops from view for much of the film’s latter half, then, “Journeyman” enters its own unfocused daze. But it finds dewy-eyed catharsis eventually, scored to the misty Nick Cave ballad “Into My Arms” to boot: It can hardly fail to hit you where it hurts, even as you sense some more subtle, searching dramatic opportunities have been passed by. In interviews, Considine has been candid about his disappointment over his sophomore feature’s trail of festival rejections and its muted reception relative to that of his dream debut; in a now-deleted Instagram post, he stated he was “done making films.” One can only hope that was a rash outburst: Visually perfunctory and narratively flawed, “Journeyman” loses a couple of rounds here and there, but shows its soul when it counts, and isn’t ashamed to let it bleed.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Journeyman'

Reviewed at Ham Yard Hotel screening room, Oct. 8, 2017. (In London Film Festival — Love.) Running time: 92 MIN.

Production: (U.K.) A Studiocanal (in U.K.) release of a Film4, Screen Yorkshire, BFI presentation of an Inflammable Films production in association with The Wellcome Trust, Studiocanal. (International sales: Cornerstone Films, London.) Producer: Diarmuid Scrimshaw. Executive producers: Lizzie Francke, Rose Garnett, David Kosse, Hugo Heppell, Meroe Candy, Danny Perkins.

Crew: Director, screenplay: Paddy Considine. Camera (color, widescreen): Laurie Rose. Editor: Pia Di Ciaula. Music: Harry Escott.

With: Paddy Considine, Jodie Whittaker, Anthony Welsh, Tony Pitts, Paul Popplewell

More Film

  • Benjamin Wallfisch - scoring session, Abbey

    Composer Benjamin Wallfisch Signs With Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency

    Composer Benjamin Wallfisch has signed with the Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency (GSA) for worldwide representation, in partnership with London-based agency COOL Music Ltd. A top composer, whose scoring credits include “It Chapter Two,” Shazam!” Hellboy,” “Hidden Figures” and “Hostile Planet,” among others, Wallfisch has worked on over 75 feature films and is a member of the BAFTA [...]

  • The Moneychanger

    Toronto Film Review: ‘The Moneychanger’

    Uruguayan auteur Federico Veiroj (“The Apostate,” “Belmonte”) broadens his usual intimate dramatic scope to diminishing returns for his fifth feature, “The Moneychanger,” . Adapted from a novella by compatriot Juan Enrique Gruber, the period (mid-1950s to mid-1970s) tale centers on the eponymous character, an amoral currency exchanger, who winds up laundering some of the dirtiest [...]

  • Send Me to the Clouds

    Film Review: ‘Send Me to the Clouds’

    The social and economic pressures felt by China’s “leftover women” — referring to those older than 26 and unmarried — are examined in “Send Me to the Clouds,” a rewarding dramedy about a 30-ish journalist seeking financial reward and sexual fulfillment after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Bold by mainland standards for presenting a positive [...]

  • Jamie Bell Without Remorse

    Jamie Bell Joins Michael B. Jordan in 'Without Remorse' Adaptation (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jamie Bell is in final negotiations to join Michael B. Jordan in Paramount’s adaptation of the Tom Clancy novel “Without Remorse.” Stefano Sollima, who most recently helmed “Sicario: Day of the Soldado,” is directing from a script by “Sicaro” screenwriter Taylor Sheridan. As previously announced, Jordan is starring as operations officer John Clark, also known [...]

  • Elizabeth McGovern, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter,

    'Downton Abbey' Movie Sequel? Producers Tease That They Have 'Some Ideas'

    “Downton Abbey” holds the record as the most-nominated international show at the Emmy Awards with 69 nominations and 15 wins — and now, it stands a chance to nab an Oscar. More than three years after the beloved series signed off the air following six critically-acclaimed seasons, “Downton Abbey” is making its big-screen debut. “It [...]

  • Todd Phillips Joaquin Phoenix Joker Movie

    What's Woker Than 'Joker'? Film Critics Made Everything Political at Fall Festivals

    “Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?” asks Joaquin Phoenix, playing a deranged incel version of the DC supervillain in “Joker,” the unconventional comic book movie that’s sucked up much of the air from the fall festival circuit. Like an aggro caricature of the “involuntary celibates” who troll message boards online, [...]

  • Running Against the Wind

    Young Africans' Dreams Are Focus of Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda Oscar Picks

    Films about young Africans trying to fulfill their dreams in the face of war, poverty, tradition and other forms of adversity have been submitted for Oscar consideration by three East African nations. The selections by Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda to compete in the international feature film category reflect the relative youth of filmmaking in the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content