Directed by Jason Connery
Written by Pamela Marin & Kevin Cook
Sports movies are enough of a niche film genre on their own, but when you dive down into golf movies, it becomes even more niche. Golf is a sport which not everybody loves. It’s a fun game, and a sport I personally love to play, but it’s also a sport that many struggle to watch, even when they may love to play it. This makes golf movies difficult to swallow. This makes Tommy’s Honour a film which, while I enjoyed it, is very limited in terms of its prospective audience. If “golf movie” automatically turns you off, then you won’t like this movie. If the history of golf sounds like a bore, then you won’t like this movie. But if a story about the Tom Morris boys, considering you know who they are, then Tommy’s Honour just might have just enough appeal.
While the game of golf is a really old sport, the modern iteration of it can be traced back to St. Andrews in Scotland and Old Tom Morris (Peter Mullan). Old Tom, the greenskeeper and a caddy at the famed course, revolutionized the game in the late 1800s along with his son, Young Tom Morris (Jack Lowden). The two made their own clubs and balls, designed their own courses and made money as professionals in tournaments and exhibition matches. This tells the story of this father/son relationship, and how Young Tom hopes to build on everything Old Tom has achieved by making a name for himself and paving his own way. Old Tom, however, is resistant, despite having been a pioneer in his own right and his own time.
On the surface, this is a film which is fairly predictable and dull. It plods along its way without taking any great chances, but it does so with the care for Old and Young Tom to be the two main driving forces of the film, which is important. It doesn’t lose its way with these two being the main focus of the film. It does stray from this slightly when Tommy (Young Tom) becomes the main focus of the film, thus Tommy’s Honour, especially since Peter Mullan is such a great actor. Tommy gets the standard romance storyline with the older Meg (Ophelia Lovibond), and it’s fine. Really that is the best way to describe the whole film, “fine”. It’s neither here nor there throughout.
Where the story is engaging to me, an avid golf fan and history buff, are the moments on the course itself, seeing the game played in its primitive days of the late 1800s, while also being able to recognize both the modern game and the advancements that these men have made to the game that echo on the sport even today. The costuming, the swings, the courses played. Everything feels authentic and Lowden and Mullan give good performances as the two golf legends. Mullan especially feels at home in the role of Old Tom, somewhat curmudgeon but also respectful employee and father who knows he has made a life for his family but is not about to push it with the clubs elites, which includes Sam Neill in a small role.
Tommy on the other hand is much more fiery, much more ambitious. Seeing this as the direct result of the success of Old Tom is both touching and maddening since Old Tom rebukes Tommy’s intentions. Jack Lowden, a name with which I was unfamiliar prior to the film, is quite good here, and perhaps has a bright future in the business. Only the most curious golf fans might find this remotely interesting, as I did. As I said in my opening, golf is not something everyone enjoys watching. Seeing it played in a different century may add some intrigue, but mostly it’s still watching golf, and whether that excites you or bores you to death just might be the determining factor when considering a film like Tommy’s Honour, for as decent a film as it might be on its own.