You can probably only name a handful of “great” golf movies before getting down to titles featuring an abbreviated Tim Conway. Tommy’s Honour, directed by Jason Connery and based on Kevin Cook’s 2007 book, isn’t exactly great, but it’s decidedly superior, thanks to a novel perspective and solid performances.
Golf wasn’t much to speak of in the latter half of the nineteenth century, at least not outside of Scotland and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, where Tom Morris (a superbly gruff Peter Mullan) is the master greenkeeper. Dubbed the “Grand Old Man of Golf” after winning four of the first eight British Open championships, he’s soon outstripped by his son Tommy (Jack Lowden), who wins the Open at age seventeen, his first of four consecutive titles.
But it’s not all mashies and niblicks. Tommy angers his father by attempting to break through the class barriers between the Scottish, forbidden from Club membership, and the English nobles who bet exorbitant sums on the games. The rift widens when Tommy falls for Meg (Ophelia Lovibond), an older Woman With a Past, eventually leading to a decision with tragic consequences. Admittedly, father-son alienation of this sort is so old-hat that Monty Python parodied it (“Working-Class Playwright”), and here it drags the action down. But even if there’s a sense of inevitability to Tommy’s Honour, the action (key to any sports movie’s success) and setting win out. Golf’s become such a ridiculously well-heeled pastime that it’s refreshing to see it portrayed in its infancy, when clubs were carried like a bunch of kindling and the desolate greens of St. Andrews were more like the hazards of today’s game.
Directed by Jason Connery
Opens April 14
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 12, 2017