‘Do you feel legit now? Yeah?’
I’m not a fan of boxing. The idea of staying up until 4am is a horrifying prospect for me at the age of 31 so it’s never happening for the sake of a boxing match. But I love films about boxing. Rocky, Cinderella Man, Raging Bull… I could go on. The reason for this is that boxing, for all its flaws, is without a doubt the most cinematic sport.
Visually, a boxing match just lends itself to cinema in a way that no other sport does, but it is in terms of metaphor and resonance that boxing really excels. Everyone is fighting something after all. This is why when people are really struggling they will unwittingly turn to boxing metaphors. ‘Fighting my corner’, ‘going the distance’, ‘come out swinging’, even ‘boxed in’. We just can’t help falling into boxing parlance when life starts to come at us. Well, Journeyman is not a boxing film. Not really. But it is a film about fighting…
When pro boxer Matty Burton (Paddy Considine) receives a serious head injury during a bout, his wife Emma (Jodie Whittaker) must teach him how to be himself again.
Firstly, while this is very a much a Paddy Considine production (writing, directing and starring thank you very much), Jodie Whittaker threatens to steal the whole thing away from him. We know that Considine can be threatening, vulnerable and tortured all at once, not that his performance isn’t remarkable, but Whittaker wrings every ounce of emotion and pain out of her character. A performance that deserves to win awards. The two share a visceral chemistry that is key to the emotional wallop that the film eventually packs. And by God, what a body blow.
Journeyman is a meditation on relationships. Those between a man and his wife but perhaps just as saliently, those between a man and other men. Like all the best cinema, the characters in Journeyman are not all good or all bad. They are human beings. Human beings who make mistakes and feel regret and, particularly from a male point of view, don’t have the emotional vocabulary to address those mistakes. This is a film about suffering and about companionship.
Having said that, unlike Considine’s super dark directorial debut Tyrannosaur, Journeyman isn’t a bleak film. It isn’t a film that is devoid of hope. Instead, it asks us to see life how it really is. A struggle of course, but also something to be cherished.
Journeyman is life affirming cinema. It is art. It forces you to feel something. And if you don’t go to the movies to feel something, then what is all of this for?