There is one thing about movies that I have always loved: a little slice of life story that I may have never heard that gets the big-screen treatment. Sony Pictures Classics is good for bringing these types of stories to life. The Phantom of the Open is such a film. I’m sure many people were like me and didn’t know anything about the man depicted in this film, but after watching it, they will.
Maurice Flitcroft (Mark Rylance) is a pretty generic man living a rather mundane life in England. He’s a heavy machinery operator who lives with his wife, Jean (Sally Hawkins), and their three sons Michael (Jake Davies), who works at the same place his dad works, Gene, and James, twins who like to disco dance. One day, Maurice sees that you don’t have to be a professional golfer to apply to play at the British Open, so he takes up the game of golf and registers for the tournament.
Even though Rylance’s character has support from his family and friends to do this unusual thing late in his life, he finds out very quickly that there are people, such as Mr. Mackenzie (Rhys Ifans), who don’t want him anywhere near the hallowed grounds of a British Open golf course. Ifans’s character will stop at nothing to have Rylance’s character removed from playing ever again and get him banned. However, this doesn’t stop Flitcroft because he’s determined to learn the game and get better, enabling him to play at The Open.
The cast of the film is excellent, from the best being Rylance himself to Hawkins and Ifans. Even the small character actors’ roles are pretty good. Every actor plays a role in this odd, strange man’s story. The film uses a trickle framing device of Rylance’s character sitting down for an interview and telling his story to a television reporter. This is very effective in getting his story across to viewers. It’s a pretty straightforward biopic in that sense.
I’ve seen underdog sports stories before, but this one is a little unconventional because of the man the film is depicting. He’s a bit quirky, and Rylance brings his Academy Award-winning talents to the forefront. The visual style is a little different, too, with a few CGI sequences that are a bit jarring because I didn’t expect to see them. They just add to the fact that this man’s story isn’t a normal one, so the film shouldn’t be either.
As far as golf movies go, I’ve seen better, but this film has a loving and sweet nature to it. Rylance shows why he won an Academy Award in the past with this touching soft-hearted performance. The rest of the cast is solid as well. The story is engaging and interesting once it gets going. The visual style of the film is nice too. The Phantom of the Open isn’t anything that will blow people away, but it has an innate ability to draw you in, entertain, and engross you. It did for me.
Dan Skip Allen
Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media