Tommy’s Honour

Golf in the 1870s was quite an Oedipal affair.

According to James Connery’s historical drama, the Scottish game of golf began as a contact sport. Testosterone-induced shoving matches brought about brawls, bruises, and broken arms. Tommy’s Honour takes place during the 1870s, when elitist country club members made hefty wagers on the backs of working-class athletes. The winners would then receive a nominal remittance as a pro forma gesture of thanks. This custom persisted until Young Tommy Morris (Jack Lowden), a golf prodigy, arrived on the links to challenge the status quo. Old Tom Morris (Peter Mullan) teaches the boy everything he knows. But when his son turns out to be a gifted natural who easily defeats his aging father, their generational conflict is suspiciously brief: The loving dad steps unassumingly out of the spotlight to let his talented son shine. Is the director, who happens to be Sean Connery’s offspring, sending a cinematic message to his Oscar-winning parent? Consider Mullan’s underwritten role as the paterfamilias. In each successive scene, his lines are incrementally reduced until the only means of communication left to him are strained facial expressions. This isn’t art imitating life — it’s art as a form of Oedipal wish fulfillment. The lopsided son-father narrative may provide Lowden (the director’s proxy) with a star-launching role — but the more Old Tom is muted, so too is our connection to his soon-to-be broken heart.

Tommy’s Honour
The film is rated PG.
Opens Friday at the Sundance Kabuki.

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