Director: Jason Connery
Screenwriters: Pamela Marin and Kevin Cook
Runtime: 112 mins.
Australian release date: 7 September 2017
Previewed at: Verona Cinema, Paddington, Sydney, on 6 September 2017.
Set in the town of St. Andrews on the beautiful Scottish east coast and directed by Jason Connery, Tommy’s Honour is ostensibly a film about the genesis of golf but is actually more than that, for it encompasses themes about love, family and the British class system. Phew! Otherwise it would have held little interest for anyone who wasn’t a lover of golf and it goes to show one should never judge a film on its primary subject matter alone for there’s often much more involved - in this case, there’s a sad love story at the heart of the film.
Old Tom Morris (Peter Mullan) and Young Tommy Morris (Jack Lowden) are father and son. Tom the elder is considered ‘The Grand Old Man of Golf,’ founding the first major golfing tournament, the Open Championships in 1860 (he won the competition twice), and establishing the 18 holes per round that has become the global standard. Old Tom was also the greenkeeper and club and ball maker at the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, where he taught Young Tom everything he knew about the game. Where the two differed, however, was in their relationship to their ‘betters,’ the upper-class gentlemen who made up the membership of the club; Young Tom vowed to bow down to no man while his father accepted it as the natural order of things. Tommy even stepped over the social barrier of the time and fell in love with an older, ‘fallen’ woman, Meg Drinnen (Ophelia Lovibond). Consequently he had to fight both the establishment and his family to maintain his place in society but in this he had a weapon that nobody else had - he was a champion golfer, unbeatable on the course, even better than his dad.
Tommy’s Honour is accompanied by a rousing score which includes music by Mozart and a re-working of the lyrics for Auld Lang Syne and Rule Britannia, in keeping with the film’s Victorian period setting. Credit must also be given to Gary Shaw’s cinematic vision of the harsh and stunning countryside and the Production and Costume Design, which convey the late 19th century locations to a tee (pun intended). It is no surprise that Tommy’s Honour won the Best Feature category at the 2016 British Academy Scotland Awards. Based on the book by Kevin Cook, Tommy’s Honour: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf’s Founding Father and Son, this film version successfully brings a little known piece of history to the screen, not only revealing the beginnings of golf but also the story of a romance existing in a society where tradition was often the winner.