BY ROGER THOMAS
I do not play golf. The closest thing I have ever gotten to the sport is playing “Putt-Putt” with my children or friends in the past. I know very little about the history of the sport.
I do like a good historical film though, even when the subject matter is not something about which I usually want to learn. “Tommy’s Honour” is a film about the sport of golf, and in spite of my lack of interest in the game, I found the film to be quite interesting as both history and drama.
“Tommy’s Honour” is based on real events. It tells the story of Tommy Morris from the time he is fifteen until he is twenty-four. A lot happens to this young man on and off the golf course in a matter of just nine years. Jack Lowden plays the young Tommy and the actor has an opportunity to offer the audience quite a few different emotions and responses to life during the time that Lowden is on screen.
The story is basically simple. The senior Tom Morris, Tommy’s father, is the groundskeeper for a prestigious golf course in the middle of the Nineteenth Century. Helping out his father, young Tommy learns the game and becomes quite skilled at the sport.
There are class issues in the film; the groundskeeper’s son cannot become a member of the club. But what happens when this young man can outplay all those above him, in class but not in skill.
Like many historical stories, “Tommy’s Honour” is a tale of someone who decides the rules are not fair, therefore, they should be changed. That is perhaps the most important theme of the film.
However, there is much more here. Again, I knew nothing of this story so every twist or new subplot was a surprise to me. I assumed since someone made a film about this young man, he had to be important in the history of golf, but what I did not know was how it all came about nor did I know all the things that happened in that nine year span that had little to do with golf.
There are several good performances in the film. Lowden captures the spirit of both a teenager and a young man in his early twenties who knows he is better than most. Peter Mullan plays the senior Tom Morris, the groundskeeper and father. Mullan does a good job of playing a parent striving to both encourage his son and humble him at the same time. The Morris family also includes Tommy’s mother and several siblings. Then about midway through the film, Tommy takes a wife played by Ophelia Lovibond.
Perhaps the most recognizable actor in the film is Sam Neill, who has starred in such diverse films as “Jurassic Park,” “Hunt for the Wilder People” and “The Piano.” In “Tommy’s Honour” he plays one of the club members who is unsure of Tommy’s skill and definitely does not want a teenage boy challenging the traditions of the club.
Once again, I think this film will be loved by those who enjoy the sport of golf. I have no love for the game, but I do like history and dramas based on true events. There is more than enough twists and turns in this story in spite of one’s opinion of the game. Beyond that, there is a young lead in the title role who does fine work; Lowden is in almost every scene in the film. And there plenty of supporting characters to keep multiple stories happening all at once, much like real life which usually offers several things to worry about, rejoice in or focus on simultaneously.
Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.