TL;DR – It is an absolute delight. Mark Rylance completely encapsulates the character bringing warmth and nuisance to the role. Overall, I found the film to be an utter delight and filled with charm from start to finish.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film.
The Phantom of the Open Review –
One of the best parts of this recent biopic resurgence has been discovering stories about people I had never heard about before. I am not much of a golf person, so while I knew the British Open was a thing that existed, I had not heard about one of the quirks in its history. However, cast Mark Rylance in your film, and you already have me on board, and what a delight it was.
So to set the scene, Maurice Flitcroft (Mark Rylance) was born in Barrow-in-Furness on the coast of northern England and much like his father before him, he was destined to work in the local shipyards until he was carried out on a box. But when he met Jean (Sally Hawkins), he knew his life would be focused on her and, eventually, his three children, Michael (Jake Davies) and the twins Gene (Christian Lees) and James (Jonah Lees). However, as the shipyard looks to be nationalised and Maurice has a genuine chance of getting a redundancy, he has to look to what he wants to do for his future. Well, one night, while watching the TV, he sees a game of golf being played and thought he’d have a crack at that and give the British Open a try.
Given that the character of Maurice has to be front and centre, I have to give full respect to the casting director Shaheen Baig for getting Mark for this part [and the entire supporting cast, who are also grand]. Mark Rylance completely encapsulates the character bringing warmth and nuisance to the role. This could have been played for a farce or even vindictive, but his straight and unrest performance makes the film work. You feel the joy, embarrassment, triumph, and sadness in his performance as we go through the highs and lows of the film. You could feel the audience bonding with him on an emotional level in the screening I went to as the movie hit each of its emotional points in the runtime. However, I should mention that his accent and mannerisms deeply reminded me of my late grandfather, which may have impacted it.
The next thing that stands out in this film is the visual style that permeates the entire presentation. At the base, you have all the era-appropriate features for a movie set in the 1970s: clothes, cars, instituted classism, and houses. With a delightful montage of what it was like trying to watch television back in 1975 with a remote attached to the tv by a wire. Then there are the subtle visual changes like the aspect ratio change when you go back in time. However, this is taken to the next level with a combination of Isobel Waller-Bridge’s ethereal musical score and a Van Gogh, Starry Night visual aesthetic. This gives the film an identity of its own much like Rocketman.
The supporting cast also shines throughout the film. You have the disco dancing brothers that inject energy and chaos into every scene. Sally Hawkins is a perfect counterpoint to Mark’s performance and provides the element of emotional grounding that the film needed. You have the uptights at The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, providing the strong antagonist action in the movie. Oh, and just an aside, I am glad they did not prolong the moments of embarrassment when Maurice first started playing. Finally, there are the bunch of Maurice’s mates that constantly pop up throughout the film and provide a lot of the movie’s needed comedic moments.
If there is one point that didn’t land for me, it was the film’s subplot around the role that class plays in British society. It is a part of the story that always comes up, usually at moments of cringe where you sit there and go, “oh, they were saying the quiet bits aloud in the 1970s”. As well as this, it provided one of the core components of dramatic tension for the film, as it explores the relationship between Maurice and his son Michael, which looks to be constructed for the film. While this was a strong element of the film, it sort of fizzled out in a narratively frustrating way.
In the end, do we recommend The Phantom of the Open? Absolutely. As well as being an interesting story about a figure in golf’s history. The film is also a beautiful exploration of a character’s humanity as he charts his own way through life. If you liked The Phantom of the Open, we would also recommend to you Eddie the Eagle.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Phantom of the Open
Directed by – Craig Roberts
Screenplay by – Simon Farnaby
Based on –The Phantom of the Open: Maurice Flitcroft, The World’s Worst Golfer by Simon Farnaby & Scott Murray
Music by – Isobel Waller-Bridge
Cinematography by – Kit Fraser
Edited by – Jonathan Amos
Production/Distribution Companies – Ingenious, Water & Power, Baby Cow Films, BBC Film, Cornerstone Films, BFI, Entertainment One & Universal Pictures
Starring – Mark Rylance, Sally Hawkins, Rhys Ifans, Jake Davies, Christian Lees, Jonah Lees, Mark Lewis Jones, Johann Myers, Simon Farnaby, Ian Porter, Nigel Betts, Afsaneh Dehrouyeh, Amy Alexander, Marc Bosch, Tim Steed & Natsumi Kuroda
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: na; New Zealand: na; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13