Journeyman

Dir. Paddy Considine

The England rugby union team captain cannot go on tour this summer due to this. Several American football players have sued the NFL over it. It's recorded as a contributory factor to the demise of former footballer legend Jeff Astle. I am talking about repeated blows to the head, leading to concussion or worse.

The actor, writer, director and band frontman Paddy Considine addresses the condition in his film, Journeyman, from the perspective of an ageing boxer who has had one fight too many.

Considine plays Matty Burton, a boxer who needs to prove to himself that he’s a genuine champion of the ring. This tale is set at a much lower, less secure end of the undercard, where the career of a boxer is an arc that eventually takes them back to the dingy, sweaty clubs where they learned their trade. The cycle continues, as these veterans then pass on their experiences to another generation of would be fighters.

Collapsing after a fight, surgery saves his physical self, but cannot save the emotional side. He is a changed person and not for the better. Suddenly, those people Matty and his wife, Emma, thought of as friends disappear, as they struggle with knowing how to cope with the difference between the former pugilist and the cripple.

The film release was due around the time that Scott Westgarth tragically collapsed and died after a match, so some of the scenes, especially the one where Matty is interviewed at ringside, are scarily prescient. Then there is always the aftermath Michael Watson has endured since his fight.

It falls to Emma, portrayed by Jody Whittaker’s excellent performance, to deal with the series of low blows. The script from Considine perhaps tries to address too many topics, but excels at conveying the isolation, frustration and sometimes physical pain that seeps through, undermining the relationship between Matty and Emma. While one is articulate, the other communicates via a series of monosyllabic grunts. The only thing Matty knows how to do is fight, and that he will do to the end.

Ged Camera