Whether you’re a fan of golf or not, there’s a sense of tradition to the sport, a social element that derives from playing, and one heightened by watching and conversing amongst likeminded friends, celebrating a game that has existed for centuries – and thrives in that very knowledge. In Tommy’s Honour that same sense of ritualism is projected onto our protagonists, as we examine a captivating father-son dynamic, and how rules and traditions are not only passed down through sport, but through family.
Directed by Jason Connery, Tommy’s Honour begins as a journalist from London interrupts the elderly Tom Morris (Peter Mullan) during an afternoon swim, hoping he’ll be granted permission to tell his life story, of the man accredited as being the founding father of the sport of golf. He’s also an accomplished course designer, instructor, clubmaker – and of course, a rather talented golfer himself. But he refuses to have his story told, for he feels that a far more intriguing narrative belongs to his son, Tommy (Jack Lowden).
We then proceed back to a time when the protagonist’s beard has less grey hair in it, as he grooms his offspring into the family business, only to step back and watch on as young Tommy becomes the greatest golfer in the world – winning The Open at the age of just 17 (still, to this day, the youngest ever winner). But as Tommy’s success grows, as does his apathy, as he falls hopelessly in love with Meg Drinnen (Ophelia Lovibond) – and while the father and son may share this common ground, it could be the very thing which breaks them apart.
There’s a muted, powerfully dramatic core to this piece, as a film that thrives as much in the sub-text as it does so in the dialogue, with tradition the beating heart. But we don’t merely celebrate such themes, as we see how the two leads’ pride and masculinity can be of detriment to their character. The core dynamic is a fascinating one too, particularly in the latter stages, as we watch on as this father appears to have everything he wished for – a golfer for a son. But then has to grapple with his own jealousy, for his offspring is better at the sport than he ever has been, something he hadn’t quite accounted for.
When dealing with such an intimate character study of this nature, in order to work you rely heavily on the lead performances, and it’s here the film comes into its element. Mullan is, as anticipated, terrific in his role. It’s a distinctly nuanced turn, with so many stories within him. While we came to expect such a showing from the venerable Scottish actor, there had been somewhat less assurance on Lowden, but the actor shines, and with this showing, could well be on the way to stardom.
The young Tommy makes for a vital entry point into this tale too, for he isn’t obsessed with the sport of golf like his father, it’s more a career for him, than a hobby. This allows the viewer a route in, maintaining a sense of accessibility for those who aren’t well-versed on the sport, as we can relate to the feature in other areas, such as his relationships with his family, his wife and his close friends. It’s probably for the best this be the case, as it’s fair to say that for most of us, a film about golf hadn’t quite got the juices flowing – but thankfully, there’s a lot more to this moving piece of cinema.
Tommy’s Honour is released on July 7th.