Written By Darren
Rating 4 out of 5
The Phantom of the Open is a crowd pleasing experience from start to finish, telling a truly unique and inspiring true sports story, anchored by the always incredible Mark Rylance and Sally Hawkins.
I’m not a golfer by any standards, but I took enough lessons growing up to understand the complexities of the game and the dedication and training athletes put into developing their skills. But had I ever heard of the worst golfer to ever play the British Open? Absolutely not, nor would I believe it before watching this film. This film tells the story of Maurice Flitcroft, a man who decides one day that he wants to become a professional golfer and enters the British Open, despite never having played a game of golf in his entire life. From there, we watch Maurice play his fateful game of golf, and the fallout as he continues to try playing the game but is outcast by the British golf community.
This is a true underdog story that plays incredibly well in the film, guaranteeing to leave a big smile on your face by the end of it. The screenplay walks a tightrope between being an outrageous comedy and a serious drama, cherry picking the best elements of each genre to create a truly entertaining film. Being a golf based story, the film does a great job of capturing the game, its rules and atmosphere that will win over avid golfers, while being accessible enough to the casual viewer. The comedic moments are hilarious, certain to have you laughing out loud, while never pushing them to something outrageous or out of the realm of feasible. It’s a grounded story of a man following his latest dream, and the effect it has on his family. There is a wonderful family drama at play, showing the fractured relationships with Maurice’s step son Mark and creates a moving plot thread throughout the film. And all of this in a run time of one hundred and six minutes including credits, ensuring the film moves along at a brisk pace so that there are no lulls in the story, while giving each element of the story enough time to fully develop.
Though, it is the lead performance of Mark Rylance which makes the film. Rylance has always been a chameleon of an actor, completely losing himself and crafting these incredible characters, and that is exactly what he does as Maurice Flitcroft. Every second he is on screen, Rylance ensnares your attention with his endearing and hilarious performance as Maurice. You can’t help but relate to the character as he follows his dream after all the sacrifices he’s made in his life, with Rylance humanizing Maurice, making him feel like someone you know rather than the legendary but ultimately unrelatable athletes we normally see in sports dramas. It’s yet another incredible performance from Rylance that can be added to his resume.
The three young actors playing the Flitcroft boys are really good, with Christiand and Jonah Lees playing the twins generating some great laughs, while Jake Davies playing Mark does a great job at developing the internal conflict between his job and his father. But it’s Sally Hawkins as Maurice’s wife Jean who is the best performance behind Rylance. As only Hawkins does, she pours so much emotion into this dotting wife who will support her husband’s newest dream at any cost, that it’s impossible not to see why Maurice married her. And when it comes to her big emotional moments in the third act, Hawkins knocks it out of the park and helps the story jump off the screen. Opposite Rylance, the two of them are a wonderful duo, creating a loving bond between their characters that will have the audience cheering for their happiness from start to finish.
Finally, with the film being set in the 70s and 80s, it features a big soundtrack of many hits from that time period. And every time the needle drops, the perfect song is chosen that adds even more life to the film. Whether it be a disco tune, ABBA’s “Money, Money, Money” or The Temptations “Build Me Up Buttercup”, each song is instantly recognizable and makes the scene even more fun than it already is.
It’s almost guaranteed that you have not heard of The Phantom of the Open, or that there is not a screen close to you playing it with all the summer blockbusters being released. But this is the film you want to be seeing right now in theatres. Mark Rylance soars in yet another wonderful performance alongside the ever talented Sally Hawkins, turning The Phantom of the Open into an incredibly fun and moving sports dramedy that is guaranteed to be the crowd pleasing film of the summer that will unfortunately go by unseen.