It is 1866 and Tom Morris (Peter Mullan) is the two-times winner of the first major golf tournament, the Open Championship in Scotland. He founded the event in 1860 and is considered something of a legend in a game that is still developing. What stops Tom from moving any further in the sport, is his class. He is a groundskeeper and caddy at St. Andrews and he lives with the restraints and expectations of the Victorian era. He is often referred to as “Old Tom” because his offsider in caddy work, is his 15-year-old son Tommy (Jack Lowden).
Young Tommy is arrogant, impetuous and excellent at playing golf. Eventually, he wins The Open three-times-in-a-row while still a teenager. The reputation of the sport is rising, due partly to Tommy’s prowess; the newspapers dub him “the dashing young man of golf” and he is beginning to draw spectators. He eventually becomes golf’s first touring professional.Father and son continually fight over matters of class and this worsens when Tommy seeks to marry Meg (Ophelia Lovibond) She is a woman with a secret and neither of his parents is happy with the match.
If you love golf and Scots history, this movie is for you; the tale of Morris senior and junior is relatively well known, especially now. The movie is an adaptation of the successful book by Kevin Cook: Tommy’s Honour: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf’s Founding Father and Son. It is directed by Jason Connery, who is a long-time actor, although never at the level of famous father Sean. Jason has directed a number of features with Tommy’s Honour being his fifth. The Connerys are avid golfers and so this project was more or less perfect for Jason to develop.
The end result has “classic cinema” stamped all over it. It is a 2017 shot at the sort of film-making that gave us CHARIOTS OF FIRE (1981). The story-telling is engaging enough; it is the acting that is the highlight. The authoritative performance from Mullan as the father is notable. His love for his son and the fear for his future is beautifully expressed in every subtle look and gesture; he’s tough, but not inflexible. Lowden as the younger man does some fine work. The character’s arrogance is annoying at first, but as the story progresses he reveals both the enthusiasm of a young man discovering his strengths and also the more vulnerable side of someone truly in love for the first time. The range he demonstrates suggests we’ll see more of him in future.
TOMMY’S HONOUR is in limited release around Australia now. 117 minutes (6.5/10)