One of the safer choices that I have seen as the big opening movie for EIFF, that doesn’t make Tommy’s Honour any less deserving of the spotlight that will be shining on it this week. It’s a period drama that looks at two men who arguably contributed more to the game of golf than anyone else, to date, and it’s a tale of a father and son enjoying their common ground while finding ways to deal with some major differences.
Peter Mullan plays Tom Morris, a well-liked green-keeper, club-maker, and general facilitator of great golf. He was responsible, in his lifetime, for the design of over 70 golf courses, which is quite an achievement. This film is about him, and how the game shaped his life, and vice versa. But it’s equally about his son, Tom Morris Jr, who stepped out of his father’s shadow and became the greatest golfer of the nineteenth century, and the woman he fell in love with (Meg Drinnen, played by Ophelia Lovibond).
Written by Pamela Marin and Kevin Cook, based on the biographical book written by the latter, Tommy’s Honour is an interesting look at class, respect, knowing when to speak out and stand up, and plenty of golf. It’s capably directed by Jason Connery, who has himself spent no small amount of time at golf courses with his own father (Sean), and the biggest failing that the film has is the fact that it simply seems a bit too sweet and cosy. There isn’t even a main antagonist for viewers to boo and hiss at, which I actually found refreshing. Not that everyone here is perfect. They’re shown to have their bad times, just as most people do, but the film outweighs those moments with victories, be they sporting or simply personal.
The cast are almost flawless throughout, which is good news when you have people surrounding the ever-great Mullan in a main role. Genuine question, can you think of any performance that Mullan has given that hasn’t been superb? I can’t, and would be very surprised if I’m forgetting an obvious choice that someone can suggest. Lowden may not be quite his equal, but he’s a fine mix of charm, youthful arrogance, and sporting prowess. Ophelia Lovibond is also very likable and plucky, making her character a perfect match (unsurprisingly) for the younger Tom Morris, and there are some very good scenes that allow the likes of Sam Neill and Peter Ferdinando to remind you of just how great they are to watch at work.
It’s a great shame that, overall, the film doesn’t quite have enough to it. It feels very light and, at times, insubstantial. Yet it does enough to celebrate the lives of the two men featured, and there is enough here to encourage viewers to seek out a bit more information about those who helped make golf the popular sport it is today, and maybe that was the main intention all along.
Tommy’s Honour opens EIFF 2016 on the evening of 15th June.
DIRECTOR: JASON CONNERY
WRITER: PAMELA MARIN, KEVIN COOK
STARS: PETER MULLAN, JACK LOWDEN, OPHELIA LOVIBOND, SAM NEILL, PETER FERDINANDO
RUNTIME: 117 MINS APPROX