Charismatic, heartfelt and seamlessly directed, Tommy’s Honour however remains a by-the-numbers bio piece with good intentions and solid performances. Martin Carr reviews…
Making a movie about the founding father of modern golf sounds like a tough sell. That Jason Connery has managed to fashion something engaging, entertaining and informative is a testament to both himself and the cast. Grounded by an understated Peter Mullan and Jack Lowden, Tommy’s Honour charts not only their tumultuous relationship but the growth of golf as a national sport.
Portraying Thomas Morris senior and junior respectively, both actors have an instant chemistry which carries the first half effortlessly. Starting in the early nineteen hundreds before flashing back, Connery uses Scotland’s scenic beauty and his central actors to paint a rounded portrait of class, sportsmanship and a sport’s evolution from early on. Focusing on the division between old money, landed gentry and working class men of talent, Connery maps out the rise of Morris junior into Scotland’s greatest golf player.
As his success flourishes and Morris senior begins leaning on the prodigy to prop up family finances both come to an impasse. Dalliances with a maid of low moral fibre also puts pressure on him as talk has led to accusations and finger pointing impropriety. Ophelia Lovibond lends solid support to both Mullan and Lowden, proving herself capable of a cracking Scottish accent and commendable drama range.
Production and costume design are also impressive as Tommy’s Honour shows off refined tailoring and country house opulence against majestic backdrops. Championship matches, caddy challenges and all weather competitions abound while the drama is kept simmering off screen. Even with the commendable Sam Neill in attendance as their money man, president and benefactor this still feels like a potted history of golf with cinematic elements tacked on.
Throwing in tragedy, a rags to riches character arc and post credit eulogy may do much to pluck those heartstrings, but Tommy’s Honour still comes across like Braveheart with a five iron. Persecuted for his origins, segregated for a desire to rise above his station and hemmed in by old fashioned notations of class Tommy Morris junior is painted as a latter day folk hero. Designed as a game for enjoyment by the privileged it offers up an origin story which belies popular opinion.
Charismatic, heartfelt and seamlessly directed, this film remains a by the numbers bio piece with good intentions and solid performances. Lifted by its commitment to the subject matter, Connery offers up a period piece of promise, somehow refined and workmanlike simultaneously. Informative, tragic and watchable if nothing else, Tommy’s Honour makes golf entertaining and dramatic which is more than can be said for the game in reality.
Written by Martin Carr
Directed by: Jason Connery
Written by: Pamela Marin, Kevin Cook
Starring: Peter Mullan, Jack Lowden, Ophelia Lovibond, Sam Neill
Released: 2016 / Genre: Historical Drama
Country: USA/UK / IMDB
Tommy’s Honour is released in UK cinemas July 7.