The perfect old man’s movie. I say this because my dad loves golf and if he knew this movie was coming out, he’d be all over this shit.
So… is this based on a true story? I know it’s based on a book, so… is the book based on a true story? The inventors of golf… kinda. That’d be an odd subject to fabricate. But it’s also a story about social class and rebellion against the orthodox, and… I don’t know, this feels like it’s going to be a pretty unfocused movie. But it seems like early reviews have been pretty kind so far. IMDb has is at 7.0/10 (as of 4/14/2017) and RottenTomatoes has it at 67% (as of 4/14/2017), so it looks like it could be promising.
Let’s take a look at the on screen talent, shall we? Starring at the titular character, we have Jack Lowden (A UNITED KINGDOM , DENIAL , and upcoming film DUNKIRK ). Beside him, we have Peter Mullan (HERCULES , WAR HORSE , CHILDREN OF MEN , and the upcoming JUNGLE BOOK ), Ophelia Lovibond (MAN UP , GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY , and TV show ELEMENTARY), and the legendary Sam Neill (HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE , EVENT HORIZON , JURASSIC PARK , and the upcoming THOR: RAGNAROK ).
Now for behind the scenes. Directing the film is Jason Connery, known for a bunch of unknown films. Co-writing the script is Pamela Marin and Kevin Cook, both making their feature-length debut. Congrats, you two. Composing the music is Christian Henson, known for THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE (2011), MALICE IN WONDERLAND (2009), and video game ALIEN: ISOLATION. Finally, the cinematographer is Gary Shaw, known for RUSH (2012) and MOON (2009).
Overall, I’m not sure what to make of this. The acting looks great, but I’m afraid that there won’t be a very good connection between ambitions of golf and social class themes, but I digress. I need to see it to see how it all pans out.
This is my honest opinion of: TOMMY’S HONOUR
Set in Scotland, circa 1866 through 1875. Tommy Morris (Jack Lowden) is the son of Tom Morris (Peter Mullan), who is the green’s keeper for the local golf course. Despite the elder Morris’ respectable position, he is still treated as a second-class citizen by the higher society folks. In turn, this makes Tommy uneasy and strives to break through his social class and be better than what everyone thinks he is. Tommy gets older and starts competing in golf tournaments, winning for years straight, falls in love with a waitress named Meg (Ophelia Lovibond), and the struggles of his family and profession.
It’s really good, actually. I can tell it won’t be for everyone, but I liked this one.
The biggest selling point is clearly the acting from the leads, Lowden and Mullan, and dear God, Lowden commands the screen. I feel like there’s a great passion behind each delivery of his lines and you feel the weight of everything he’s going through. From trying to be taken seriously as a golfer from his elderly and higher class peers, to his family accepting his lower class wife, he carries the film so well, you’d swear you time-traveled and were watching the actual events play out as they really did.
And if there was anyone that might have stolen the show as much as Lowden, Lovibond. Holy hell, this woman is charming and engaging like you wouldn’t believe. While most of the women in the movie seem to take kindly to prestigious golfers here, Meg is playfully apathetic toward Tommy’s accomplishments. Though she likes him well enough, there is a bit of work that Tommy has in front of him before the two end up in a relationship. There’s also a pretty tragic backstory to her during this amazing scene between her and Tommy’s mother, and Lovibond showcases some incredible talent that I hope lands her some great roles in the future. She’s generous, supportive, determined, grounded, everything to make for a great role that Lovibond nails, making her probably one of the more memorable roles I’ve seen this year.
In fact, what really helps this movie is how real the setting feels. The architecture, the fashion, little touches like period-correct photos of the actors. I really liked that a lot. For some reason, you never see those.
But of course, the golfing scenes are very well done and authentically tense. While I can tell there are some obviously fake CGI golf balls every now and again, the key to making any golf scene “on the edge of your seat” is toning up the stakes and I’m pretty sure every match that Tommy competes in, there’s something that makes his victories important, so when he wins, we share in his satisfaction and cheering of the crowd.
I suppose there are a few negatives that should be addressed. For one thing, while I’m not privy toward many films that cover the whole “social class” theme, this movie does feel like it would hit the clichés a movie like this would. There’s always a rebel trying to rise above what is expected, and succeeds in some inspiring way. While this is done effectively, I can’t deny that it does feel like it’s been done before, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t often see stories about his kind of thing.
I also didn’t like how the mother was treated, as far as writing is concerned. She’s barely in the movie in the first half. The first scene I remember her in is when Tommy’s playing with his younger brother and his mom comes in and tells him to stop goofing around and continue studying. Bitch, he’s bonding with his brother. Get the hell over it. And we don’t really see hide or hair of her until Tommy marries Meg. Actually, I take that back, we get a quick sequence of her investigating Meg’s life with her family, which leads to a reveal, which eventually leads to the scene between her and Meg. And while that scene between the two women is a powerhouse performance on both sides, it’s still never shown why we should care about the mother’s judgments. She was such a bit character before the film and becomes a bit character after said scene, we never a sense of who she is and why we should care about her. She’s been demonized, when it feels like she deserved a more prominent role and probably resulting in a deeper understanding of her motivations and way of thinking. I know someone’s probably going to point out how she doesn’t like Meg because she’s of lesser social standing than even Tommy, but again, this is only learned during that scene. For such an important moment in the movie, only one of two characters involved felt really important themselves.
Overall, I think this is a pretty strong film. I was, indeed, worried that the golfing stuff and the social class themes wouldn’t mix well, but I guess that’s why I’m a movie reviewer, rather than a movie writer. It’s compelling, emotional, thoroughly interesting, it’s a decent watch whether you’re a golf fan or not. But if you are, I think you’ll get your money’s worth. I know the very concept of golf will turn people away from this movie, and that’s a shame because it does do a lot right. So I recommend this in theaters. Mantinee viewing if you’re paranoid about whether or not this is your thing, but still want to give it a chance. If not in theaters, then I highly recommend a rental. It’s worth seeing folks, weather because of the acting, or the time period, or the sport subject, it’s a really good flick.
My honest rating for TOMMY’S HONOUR: 4/5