Matty Burton is the middleweight champion of the world, knowing he is nearing the end of his career. He takes a lucrative fight with the much younger Andre Bryte, which he wins on points after an epic battle. That night, at home, he collapses after succumbing to the blows to the head inflicted in the fight. He faces a fight to overcome his injuries, piece his life back together and save his marriage.
We seem to be in the midst of a golden age of British boxing films, after last year’s excellent Jawbone and now Journeyman, though they are very different. Most of the success of the movie is due to Paddy Considine. His script takes the story into unexpected territory and he again proves he is an adept director. More than that, though, his performance as Matty is compelling. His subtle portrayal of a man with brain injuries is not too mannered or littered with cliches, as it is so often in other films with similar subjects. Amazingly, Jodie Whittaker is just as good as his wife, Emma, wanting to support him but also protect their child. She is lucky that Considine provides her with material way better than would be expected in the wife role but she is superb nonetheless.
Although Matty and Emma’s relationship is at the heart of the film, I found the most moving and powerful moments involved his rebuilding of his friendships with his trainer and corner man. Tony Pitts, for once playing a sympathetic character, stands out as a friend who initially does not know how to cope with the changes to Matty.
The depiction of a boxer’s life in and out of the ring feels very authentic, helped by details such as the use of the great pundit and raconteur, Steve Bunce, in some interview scenes. As much as it shows the brutality of the sport, it also feels like a love-letter to it, and the way it can change lives for better as well as worse.
Walking back to the station after the film, I had to weave my way through people flocking to see Anthony Joshua fight Joseph Parker. It is a shame that with such a small release, the majority of those people are missing out on such a wonderful film centered on sport they love and early contender for British film of the year.
Rating: 9 out of 10