A timeless torch passing between father and son set against the one of golf’s most revolutionary periods, Tommy’s Honour finds entertainment in the often complicated ties that bind us together. It’s a story that carries a similar message as those that came before it. Whether or not that is good thing will like depend on your personal preference for such storytelling, but Jason Connery has done justice to a story that shaped one of the world’s most popular sports.
Beginning in 1866, Tommy’s Honour tells the story of “Old” Tom Morris and his son, “Young” Tom. Old Tom Morris designed some of the most famous courses across the British Isles and helped found the Open Championship (now called The British Open). His success and innovation in the game of gold was only surpassed by his son, who would live out his life as the greatest player in the world while changing the way players approached nearly every aspect of the game. The bond the Morris men shared was as powerful as anything on the planet, but their core difference nearly tore them apart time and time again.
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Tommy’s Honour focuses on the period between “Young” Tom first competing with his father and his death nearly a decade later. It’s a lot of ground to cover for any film running under two-hours, but the script from Pamela Marvin and Kevin Cook – who also wrote the book the movie is based on – makes sure to keep things moving throughout. It is perhaps only fitting when one considers that Tom’s life was something of a whirlwind itself. As soon as his talent was recognized by the men with money in his community, everything in his and his father’s life began to change. Add to this the recognition that came both from his innovation and success away from home, not to mention a marriage to an older woman with a questionable past, and it’s surprising “Young” Morris found a way to clear his head in between strokes.
It’s hard to ignore the allegory golf represents in a movie such as this, but it’s a worthwhile one nonetheless. Golf is a game that everyone approaches in the way they feel is best, with each stroke informed by every swing that came before, but not a person ever perfects the game. “Old” Tom was the greatest of his generation, just as his son was for his own, but neither one perfected their craft. Worse yet, their pursuits of perfection often lead them to ignore other aspects of existence, and those actions sometimes came with grave consequences.
Tasked with bringing the Morris men to life are the legendary Peter Mullan and Denial star Jack Lowden. The entire film relies on their chemistry maintaining simmering sense of tension, and more often than not they are up to the challenge. Mullan outshines his younger counterpart when emotions begin to rise, but Lowden will no doubt be getting many more calls for work as people see his performance here. I also believe his other co-star, the always wonderful Ophelia Lovibond, will be appearing on our screens much more frequently in the years to come.
The relationship between a father and his son is often a complicated one, and Jason Connery has done it justice with Tommy’s Honour. This is battle between the head, the heart, and the ego that lies at the core of every man’s soul, bubbling up from time to time as they confront their own mortality. Boys either want to their father or nothing like him at all, while fathers do what they feel is best in the moment and live with what follows until they are dead. The bond this pair can shape the world or destroy it. In the case of “Old” Tom Morris and his son it could be argued both things happened, and life as we know it was never the same.