Based on the book Tommy’s Honor by Kevin Cook, Tommy’s Honour tells the story behind two of Golf’s greatest innovators and champions – Old Tom Morris and his son Tommy Morris Junior, who in the late 19th century pioneered modern professional golf.
Directed by Jason Connery, the film is an intimate historical biopic, detailing the rise of young Tommy (Jack Lowden) as a golfing prodigy in St Andrews, Scotland. Tommy’s father (Peter Mullan) is a long-serving green keeper, serving the upper class and content with the way things are. Tommy longs for a fairer future, one where he is paid well for winning as opposed to receiving a cut from the upper class gentlemen on whose behalf he plays. It’s not long before the difference of class ideology within father and son clash, resulting in great change that will have a lasting effect on the game.
The result is a film that goes in-depth into the socio-political climate of the period it is set, as well as detailing the evolution of golf. Through playing professionally and winning multiple championships, Tommy challenged victorian ideals, convention and tradition, both personally and professionally, eventually winning over those who sought to block him and profit from his talent without giving him his fair share.
Throughout all the politics and social commentary, Connery attempts to keep the human aspect front and centre, especially the relationship between the Morris boys, as well as Tommy’s burgeoning romance with Meg, a woman of lower standing (Ophelia Lovibond). For the most part, it works. Many a touching moment passes throughout the running time, ensuring that the film doesn’t descend into dullness, and this is no doubt down to the talented cast, all of whom give each scene the pathos and intimacy deserved.
Peter Mullan and Jack Lowden demonstrate an excellent chemistry throughout, from sweeter paternal moments to the fiery clashes their mismatched characters frequently come to. Lowden commands the screen particularly well, and is a delight to watch as the titular golfing champion.
The film oozes many moments of charm, though Tommy’s Honour does struggle somewhat to make the more technical aspects of the golf exciting. Connery shoots the scenes in question well, but there’s only so many shots you can shoot of a ball being struck into a hole by a club. Golfing enthusiasts will likely find more to enjoy in the film then those less-involved by such sport, but even they may find the repetitive aspects of the film a tad slow and inconsequential.
A conventional film by biopic standards that occasionally teeters on dullness, Tommy’s Honour ultimately wins through thanks to some great performances from it’s lead cast-members. Beautiful cinematography lends the film a cold but inviting aesthetic throughout, and the more personal moments of Tommy Morris’ life are joyful and heartbreaking enough to elicit a tear or two.
Hardly a hole-in-one, but above par all the same.