Paddy Considine is really quite a talent. Not only is he an exceptionally good actor, as comfortable in blockbusters like The Bourne Ultimatum and Hot Fuzz as he is in small indie films, such as Dead Man's Shoes, Pride and Submarine, he is also forging a career as one of the more interesting British directors. He made an impact with his debut film Tyrannosaur, a powerful drama about domestic abuse, and now he's back with boxing film Journeyman.
The film chronicles boxer Matty Burton in the build-up and aftermath of the last fight of his career. The fight causes a devastating head injury that he must recover from before it tears apart his young family. The film covers equally difficult material as Considine's debut, so a cheery romp this is not.
Considine's second film is a soulful, heartfelt one that feels like it is missing a segment. We see the fall and partial rise of the man at the centre but it feels like the story is absent the final third. It can't quite decide if it is going to be a painfully acute exploration of suffering a brain injury or a sports melodrama with a redemption angle. It doesn't quite satisfy as either and I would have preferred a continued examination of what happens when a life is blown apart and who puts it back together.
The film is at its best when Considine shares the screen with Jodie Whittaker (the future Doctor). These scenes are often troubling to watch but are powerfully compelling. Whittaker is particularly good (as fans of Broadchurch would agree), her performance full of quiet, subtle touches. Her absence from much of the second half is noticeable, and so the energy she brings to the film is missing too.
There is no denying that Considine is a director with a keen eye for a difficult narrative. Journeyman is a meaningful exploration of an underexplored subject. But one can't help but wish the director had stuck to his guns and focused just on the impact and recovery of injuries like this. That is when the film is at its most interesting, elevated above just another fine sports movie.
This is a London Film Festival preview and Journeyman will be released on Friday 16th February.