The Journey review – Paisley and McGuinness travel far in odd-couple bromance

Colm Meaney and Timothy Spall play Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley in this well-intentioned what-if drama set during Northern Ireland’s peace talks

Nick Hamm’s The Journey is a speculative what-if drama about a vital and mysterious aspect of the Northern Ireland peace process: the extraordinary rapprochement between two old enemies – the DUP’s Ian Paisley and Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness. Since I saw this film’s premiere at Venice last year, McGuinness has died, there is political instability, and Brexit threatens to disturb a hard-won peace accord. So this film really is more relevant than ever. A reconsideration was in order. But I have to admit to being left with the same problems.

Despite intelligent performances from Colm Meaney and Timothy Spall as McGuinness and Paisley, it is a strained odd-couple fantasy bromance with some very contrived moments. Something which might have stood up as a shorter piece for television – or, better yet, radio – has been distended to feature length. The film imagines that, halfway through the peace negotiations, Ian Paisley had to make a long car journey to get to his 50th wedding anniversary party and for reasons of diplomatic protocol, McGuinness would have to join him. This was the literal and figurative journey during which the ice would break. A reasonable enough fictional device: but making the men’s driver a covert security agent getting instructions through an earpiece from MI5 chief John Hurt just looks silly. Some good moments, but this decently intentioned film doesn’t come off.

Timothy Spall on McGuinness and Paisley’s friendship: ‘It was almost preposterous’


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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