Dull And Uninspired: Our Review Of ‘Tommy’s Honour’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - May 19, 2017
Dull And Uninspired: Our Review Of ‘Tommy’s Honour’

Tommy’s Honour is a sports movie/biopic by director Jason Connery. The film follows two of modern golf’s forefathers, 19th-century father and son, Tom and Tommy Morris. Despite their low social standing, they defeated upper-class competition, changed the game of golf, and became legends. The Morris family’s story sounds like golf’s version of Hoosiers but the film’s premise is more appealing than its execution. Connery hits many standard biopic beats but fails to breathe vitality into this dull film.

Tommy’s Honour tells the true story of “Old” Tom Morris (Peter Mullan) and “Young” Tommy Morris (Jack Lowden), a father and son duo who helped make golf the sport it is today. Tom is a groundskeeper who accepts his low standing in society’s social pecking order. Tom is fine with teaching aristocrats how to improve their strokes. Tommy is a golf prodigy, more successful than his dad by an early age. He’s also a free-spirited. Tommy doesn’t let conventional thinking cloud his judgement. He believes that the rich snobs he competes against are no better than him. Adding to the Morris family’s tension is Tommy’s affection for Meg (Ophelia Lovibond). Meg is “older” than Tommy and bares her own social stigma. Conflict and tragedy would go on to shroud the Morris’ legacy, and screenwriters Pamela Marin and Kevin Cook wring every last melodramatic drop out of the story.

Tommy’s Honour suffers from a case of what I call “biopic-edness.” The film plays out like the greatest hits section in Tom and Tommy Morris’ lives. For long stretches, the story is presented as, “And then, and then, and then…” instead of, “Because, because, because.” It’s the difference between someone saying, “A man ran down the street and then another man ran down the street,” versus, “A man ran down the street because he robbed a bank because he owed the mob money.” The film leaps between significant moments in the Morris’ lives without stopping and settling in long enough for viewers to care.

Tommy’s Honour has its share of one-dimensional characters and more often than not the story comes off as heavy-handed. That doesn’t stop the cast from delivering some memorable moments along the way. Peter Mullan couldn’t turn in a bad performance if his life depended on it. Even as Mullan brings his trademark intensity to the role we can still feel Tom’s vulnerability stirring just below the surface. It’s fascinating watching Mullan bring Tom’s inner-conflict to life.

Sam Neill puts in a terrifically smarmy performance as Alexander Boothby, a rich dickhead. It’s the generic adversarial role we see in almost every biopic. Sadly, Neill doesn’t get enough screen time to really shine. It’s a shame because Neill makes his stock movie antagonist role 1000% more memorable than it has any right to be. Somebody needs to speak with Neill’s agent about casting this man as a Bond villain.

Jack Lowden does a solid job as Tommy Morris. Lowden’s charisma and affability won me over the moment he showed up on screen. As Tommy Morris, Lowden exudes an ebullient charm that you can’t help but root for. I had a hard time watching the vitality disappear from Tommy’s eyes as tragedy took a toll on his life. Tommy’s slow descent into melancholy packed a hard-hitting emotional punch. Lowden earns bonus points with me for leaving such a memorable impression while working off of a middle-of-the-road script.

I’m not a fan of golf but that shouldn’t prevent me from enjoying a movie prominently featuring golf. Tommy’s Honour spends more than enough time on the golf course to win me over.  And yet, the film never did. The golfing segments are a snooze. Connery’s shooting style isn’t dynamic enough to demand my attention. Connery never captures the thrill of competition. The golfing sequences lack flair, tension, and excitement. Even when the stakes are high on the field, the golf scenes don’t carry any emotional heft. Tommy’s Honour never convinced me to care about the sport and its rich history.

Tommy’s Honour is at its best when the characters step away from the golf course. The story of Tom and Tommy Morris the father and son is far more compelling than the story of Tom and Tommy Morris, golfing legends — and that’s not saying much. Tommy’s Honour fails as a sports movie and just barely works as a biopic. Connery’s film does a fair job exploring the who, what, and where of The Morris’ legacy but the movie’s bland script doesn’t bare enough of its soul to make me care.

This post was written by
Victor Stiff is a Toronto-based freelance writer and pop culture curator. Victor currently contributes insights, criticisms, and reviews to several online publications where he has extended coverage to the Toronto International Film Festival, Hot Docs, Toronto After Dark, Toronto ComiCon, and Fan Expo Canada. Victor has a soft spot in his heart for Tim Burton movies and his two poorly behaved beagles (but not in that order).