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One probably must be a true student of golf to appreciate "Tommy's Honour," a handsomely mounted but slow-moving story about one of the sport's most important father-son pairings.
Tom Morris (Peter Mullan) went down in history as the greens master of St. Andrews, the legendary golf course in Scotland, and founder of the Open Championship (what we now call the British Open). The movie begins with a reporter (Benjamin Atwood) seeking an interview with the old man about his legendary career as a golfer and course designer. But Tom only has one story to tell: the story of his son, Tommy (Jack Lowden).
Tommy trained under his father, and together they were an unbeatable combination on the links in the 1860s. They made a lot of money for their wealthy backers and got a share of the proceeds but with the gentry, embodied by the imperious Alexander Boothby (Sam Neill), making it clear they were common folk and would always remain so.
Tommy rebelled against that class system, fighting to be paid for his wins, not just relying on the noblesse oblige of his backers.
He also did the unthinkable, for a Scotsman, of playing for pay in England and rebelled against his mother, Nancy (Therese Bradley), by falling in love with Meg Drinnan (Ophelia Lovibond), a servant nearly a decade his senior.
Director Jason Connery has Scots blood in his veins (his dad is Sean Connery), and he gives the family's story a fond treatment. The melodrama is high in the script (by Pamela Marin and Kevin Cook), loaded with family disputes and personal tragedies, as father and son pay respect to and change the game they love.
The most interesting parts of "Tommy's Honour," though, are the historical details about golf as it was played in the 18th century from homemade golf balls to the then-novel use of 18 holes in a golf course.
That dose of history brings a charming authenticity to a tried-and-true biopic.
A good-looking but sluggish biography of the father and son who revolutionized the game of golf in the 19th century.
Where • Megaplex Jordan Commons (Sandy).
When • Opens Friday, April 14.
Rating • PG for thematic elements, some suggestive material, language and smoking.
Running time • 117 minutes.