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London Film Festival Review: Journeyman – “A beautiful and powerful film”

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The ridiculously talented Paddy Considine has made a new film, and he’s only gone and written, directed and starred in it (and nailed each of those three key roles).

Considine plays Matty, a boxer who suffers a traumatic brain injury after a fight which leaves him struggling to walk, talk or perform basic tasks unaided. His loving wife Emma, played by Jodie Whittaker, does all she can to look after him but she also has a newborn to care for and her husband’s injury means it’s not just himself he’s a danger to.

Journeyman is one of those films that could so easily have become an overly sentimental sob-story: the kind of film where you get knocked down but somehow fight your way back to the top again and all is well. However, in Considine’s very capable hands, this is no overly-sentimental film designed to yank on your heartstrings until they break. It’s a powerfully simplistic, raw story of human connection and infallibility.

Because there is no bad guy. There is nobody to blame. Matty got into that ring to box. He knew the risks. His opponent might have been the one to deal that particular blow but it was all part of the sport. Even Matty’s friends, friends who’ve been with him for years, don’t know how to help – so they do nothing.

This is perhaps something awful when looking at it from the outside but it’s also something entirely plausible. They’re not mean, cold or heartless. They haven’t just dismissed him because they no longer care. They just don’t know what to do … so they stay away.

His wife (his poor wife) is pushed to her very limit, torn between the happiness and well-being of her husband, her baby and herself.

And that’s enough.

That, in itself, is a story that doesn’t need the extra bells and whistles some would want to add. With Journeyman, it’s a story that is so beautifully told that from start to finish you are entirely invested in the lives of all of these people. You care, really care, about what happens to them.

The entire cast is flawless. Whittaker and Considine, in particular, are incredible to watch as Matty and Emma. Their love is a comfortable one because they are so very at ease with each other. So when it’s tested it’s both difficult and entirely compelling to watch.

Considine’s physical performance is also marvellously subtle and underplayed, making you fear what might happen next in every given moment. The performance brings with it a fragility and frustration, around which the entire story revolves.

Journeyman is a beautiful and powerful film about the lengths people will go to for the people they love. It’s also a reminder of the absolute story-telling genius of Paddy Considine both in front of and behind the camera (and a further glimpse of just how good Whittaker could be in Doctor Who!).

Check out our London Film Festival coverage

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