Venice Film Festival: The Journey

The Journey
Directed by Nick Hamm
Starring Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney, Freddie Highmore, John Hurt and Toby Stephens
Watch on iTunes

by Laura Patricia Jones

A political cocktail of banter and bromance probably wasn’t how Nick Hamm intended his fictional interpretation of the Northern Ireland peace talks to be interpreted, but that’s how it felt as I spent 90 minutes watching The Journey.

After 40 years of The Troubles in Northern Ireland, the leading players meet at St. Andrews in an attempt to hammer out a final and lasting peace agreement. The end result depends on loyalist firebrand Reverend Ian Paisley (Timothy Spall) and former IRA Commander Martin McGuinness (Colm Meaney), two sworn enemies agreeing to share power.

With the talks in crisis, Hamm’s retelling imagines the two ending up in a car journey together as Paisley leaves for his 50th wedding anniversary. Worried the journey may make him more averse towards the idea of working with his political enemy, McGuinness, who favours the idea, insists on travelling along with him. The film then follows the story of what happens (or could have) on that journey to the airport to bring the two together. Starting with bitter exchanges, as conversations shift they begin to make progress with understanding each other better. Back in St. Andrews, their colleagues watch from the cameras bugged inside the car driven along by young MI5 agent Jack (Freddie Highmore) posing as their chauffeur.

I couldn’t help but feel that the story being told has been romanticised. I mean, I really enjoyed it, there are some incredibly witty lines. I found Toby Stephens hilarious, if a little caricature, as Tony Blair (not sure if this was the intention), and you can’t help but love John Hurt as a doddering should-have-retired years ago MI5 agent. It was also pretty pleasant to see little Charlie Bucket all grown up as witty driver Freddie.

It’s an enjoyable watch which gives you a sense of relief when both sides fuse together, showing the turning point that led to the peace Northern Ireland has to day. But, not a lot really happens and in places it feels more like a boy’s club bromance than a political drama.

However, I did get a decent History lesson out of it and for people like me who might have had no idea about such a backstory, it’s certainly worth a watch. And for everyone else? It’s an enjoyable 90 minutes, moving in parts, humorous in others – not worth kicking out of bed yet.



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