Tommy’s Honour

Review by Courteney Tan

Directed by

Jason Connery

Starring

Ophelia Lovibond Peter Mullan Sam Neill

Anticipation.

Is this one aimed purely at old men and golf fans?

Enjoyment.

Plods along in a mildly enjoyable way.

In Retrospect.

Endearing but too safe.

A featherlight look at one of the pioneers of golf in this quaint, undemanding sport-themed biography.

“You’ll only get one story from me” utters Peter Mullan as Tom Morris. He is one of the founding fathers of modern golf, wishing to relive not his own legacy but that of his son, Tommy (Jack Lowden), an international, competitive golfer and youngest winner (to date) of the Open Gold Championship.

Set in mid-19th century Scotland, it’s no surprise that this story found its way into the hands Jason Connery, son of Sean, who taught Jason himself how to master the game. But this film doesn’t quite live up to more successful and dramatic sport-biopic predecessors. Game after game, putt after putt, what should be scenes of heightened suspense and intense competition fall into the monotonous realms of predictability.

Similar shot set-ups are used for each game: close ups on the ball; long shots of its travel; reaction shots to the golfer’s success. It makes one game indistinguishable from the next. By the third game, audiences are more compelled to watch the back drop of the decaying cliffs over open waters. There’s no denying a picturesque quality to the film, and watching figures costumed in modest period dress move against rugged Scottish landscapes may not be substantial, but it is at least lightly pleasurable.

Intercut are noteworthy moments of tension between Tommy and his father, the former desiring to push and pursue golf and the latter acting as a relentless reminder of his obligations to helping maintain the small, futureless family shop. As Tommy gains international success and begins to climb the social ladder, the film delves deeper into these pressures as well as other relevant and worldly issues – family vs career, poverty vs wealth, love vs obligation.

But these conflicts are all too obvious and characters too easily fall into archetypes: the strict Scottish mother; the domineering father; the quiet, doormat sister. That said, the actors make the most of the material, each delivering a grounded and gritty performance in attempt to make their sometimes flat dialogue feel more realistic. Only three females seem to exist in this old-timey golfing world, all of whom are given only scenes that relate to young Tommy. It’s disappointing, but expected.

Perhaps the saving grace to all this is Ophelia Lovibond’s bold performance as Meg, Tom’s older, scandalous scullery maid wife who brings a much needed modern flare to an otherwise plodding drama. Lovibond’s confident assertion effectively compliments Lowden’s humble and honest turn as the talented yet modest Tomm. It carries the film through, but doesn’t quite swing it into full motion.

Published 7 Jul 2017

Tags: Jack Lowden Ophelia Lovibond Peter Mullan Sam Neill

Anticipation.

Is this one aimed purely at old men and golf fans?

Enjoyment.

Plods along in a mildly enjoyable way.

In Retrospect.

Endearing but too safe.

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