I don’t enjoy boxing. I have never understood why anyone would pay money to watch a couple of people intentionally beat each other up. So, on a recent flight, I wouldn’t have chosen to watch Journeyman – a film about a boxer – had it not been one of the top-five movies recommended by the Emirates entertainment channel. Now I’m glad I did.
Journeyman is written and directed by Paddy Considine, who also stars in the leading role as middleweight boxing champion Matty Burton. The programme notes summarise the action:
As he approaches the end of his career [Matty] knows that he must make his money and get out of the game, to secure a home and future with his wife and baby daughter. After a titanic fight … Matty collapses on his living room floor, a delayed reaction to a devastating punch. Awaking from the coma, the real fight begins. Suffering from memory loss and with his personality altered, Matty must begin to piece his life back together as his world disintegrates.
Dementia is not just a condition affecting the elderly. It can also follow a traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a blow to the head. Recent research conducted in Denmark revealed that the overall risk of dementia in individuals with a history of TBI was 24 percent higher than those without a history of TBI. A single severe TBI could increase the risk by as much as 35 percent. Suffering a brain injury in your 20s can increase your risk of developing dementia in your 50s by 60 percent. It’s therefore not surprising that there is a category of dementia known as ‘dementia pugilistica’ (boxer’s dementia).
But that’s not the point of this story.
The movie provides a poignant insight into the life-changing impacts of TBI on the patient, their family members and friends. Initially, Matty’s boxing friends desert him. They just don’t know how to relate to him as a physically broken man who can’t remember their names. Matty’s wife Emma (Jodie Whittaker) steps into the role of full-time care partner, but she eventually leaves him as his unpredictable and sometimes violent behaviour threatens her safety and that of their baby.
A crisis causes Matty’s friends to realise the extent of his need for support. What follows is a moving tale of friendship and solidarity – of buddies who accompany and encourage Matty on his long journey toward rehabilitation and the restoration of his most treasured relationships.