Bring your hankies: Journeyman review

Paul Zanon
23/03/2018 10:32am

Paul Zanon reviews Paddy Considine's new boxing film 'Journeyman' and pronounces it an emotional knockout...

“Weighing in at an even 11 stone 6lbs, let’s hear it for Matty Burton….”

The film is called ‘Journeyman,’ but it’s not what boxing aficionados would expect from the word. The protagonist does not posses a record of three wins, 298 losses and 12 draws. On-screen character Matty Burton, played by the affable Paddy Considine, who also writes and directs, is the WBO middleweight champion.

Without giving too much away, he’s up against a tough younger opponent, played by Anthony Welsh. After the fight, Burton collapses with an injury to the brain. At this point, it becomes obvious why the film is called 'Journeyman', as the viewer is then immersed in the journey of a man on the slow, painful and, at times, harsh route to partial recovery.

Having ghosted the life story of former IBF & IBO featherweight world champ, Paul Ingle over an 18-month period, I was very able to spend a great deal of time getting to know his traits, witness his issues with memory, difference in speech, and reminisce about his former world title days when he was at peak physical fitness.

I was also fortunate enough to interview his brain surgeon for several hours, to get an insight into how the world’s most complex computer works – the brain.

Considine, on a similar parallel, has conducted a great deal of research to get an understanding of the world of brain injury.

To my knowledge, the leading cause of trauma injuries to the brain evolve from car accidents. Considine had in-depth conversations with surgeons and sufferers of brain injuries, including an individual from a car crash. The manner in which he portrays the life of Matty Burton post-surgery is brilliant.

How the character of an individual can change is one of the very noticeable traits of brain trauma victims. An incredible level of frustration can lead to dark and depressive times and the manner in which Considine takes cinemagoers through those painful episodes will certainly leave you teary eyed. As Considine said in the post-screening Q & A I attended, in his inimitable style: “There wasn’t a dry tear in the cinema.”

Soon after the operation, Burton faces the reality of how his life will never be able to go back to what it used to be. The film then becomes a sub journey of adaptability for both Considine and his on-screen wife, played by the incredible Jodie Whittaker, who faces adapting to having a different husband, father and, poignantly, a former world champion who has had a fall in grace from a very great height.

As the film shows, when you fall from that height, it’s a long and slow journey to get up off a very gluey canvas.

From a boxing purist’s point of view, will you see any known faces from the boxing fraternity in the movie? Of course! And not fictitious ones either: Kell Brook, Barry Jones, Brendan Ingle, Steve Bunce, Gareth A. Davies, Matt Christie – to mention but a few - all pop up. Squint hard enough and you’ll even see me a few rows back at the opening presser scene – for a second anyway!

Considine was put through a ten-week training camp to get into shape for the part. Under the strict tutelage of Dominic Ingle, he trained alongside a host of champions at the legendary Wincobank gym in Sheffield, and was forced to ditch his love of Toblerones and adopt (under duress) a calorie controlled diet to look the part.

You’ll certainly be impressed with how the 45-year-old got into shape, and he doesn't have a bad jab to boot.

And if you’re not into boxing? 'Journeyman' is certainly still worth a view - it's a film that will appeal to anyone. End of.

One tip though - bring your hankies.