EIFF 2016: Underwhelming golfing biopic, starring Peter Mullan and Sam Neill
Based on a book by Kevin Cook, with a screenplay by Cook and Pamela Marin, Tommy’s Honour tells the story of two of the greats of 19th century golf. Tom Morris (played here by Peter Mullan) and his son Tommy (Jack Lowden) are regarded in the golf world as founding figures of the modern game. Jason Connery, son of Sean, takes the directorial reigns for this well-meant but dramatically deficient biopic hampered by poverty row production values and an unimaginative treatment of true events.
Placing the narrative within a flashback as Old Tom looks back on his often stormy relationship with his son, Tommy’s Honour depicts the stifling pressures of the golfing game. Chief amongst them are its crusty and officious members, led by Alexander Boothby (Sam Neill), old-fashioned traditionalists who threaten to strangle the life out of the sport, while the heavy-handed attentions of professional betting interests represent a further source of strife. Old Tom teaches young Tommy to love the game, but his progeny’s passion for local lass Meg (Ophelia Lovibond) divides the family.
Connery’s fifth feature is continually hampered by its low budget, limiting the period action to a series of drives and putts played out on barely distinguished golf courses. Whatever difficulties the two Toms had in their careers are never dramatised in any deep or emotional way, leaving a talented cast grimacing behind straggly beards, and the film’s portrayal of several generations of Scots as whisky-guzzling, bunnet-wearing fogeys is crude. Changing golfing traditions may be an unexpectedly hot topic in 2016, but Tommy’s Honour offers misty-eyed melodrama rather than any real insight into sporting history.
Screening on Wed 15 Jun as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2016. General release TBC.