Tom Morris and his son Tom Morris Jr. (nicknamed Old and Young Tom Morris) are two of golf's most important pioneers and innovators. Historians credit the Scottish father-and-son duo for establishing the modern game of golf and for broadening the sport's popularity.
They get the biopic treatment in Tommy's Honour, a new historical drama based on the award-winning 2007 book of the same name. The film, which opens on Friday at the Cedar Lee Theatre and Cinemark Valley View, focuses on both the historical development of golf and the development of Scotland's social classes toward the end of the 19th century, and includes elements of sports drama, romance, and historical biography.
The film follows the life of Tom Morris (Peter Mullan) and his son Tommy Morris Jr. (Jack Lowden). Old Tom Morris is, at this point in his life, a respected grounds-keeper who makes clubs and balls for the town's wealthy golfers. His son is a golf prodigy, making international news with his innovative play and cavalier attitude toward the sport. Tommy wants to use his golf talents to enrich himself instead of the upper-class benefactors who bet on his games; however, Old Tom Morris tries to respect the rules and social norms of the game, chastising Tommy for his revolutionary behavior.
Though the source material seems generative and interesting, the film fails to present the two main characters as complex and unique — both Old and Young Tom Morris just seem like two guys who were really good golfers, but not much else. The film's most interesting narrative thread is Young Tom's crusade to make golf a game for everyone, not just the upper-class members of society.
Nor does the film explain the stakes involved in any of the matches. Normally, in a sports drama, there's a "big game" or a "final showdown," but nothing of the sort appears in Tommy's Honour. Tommy Jr. simply wins match after match, and the film doesn't explain why any of them matter. It's possible that Young Tom Morris was such a good golfer that he never lost important matches, but the film doesn't make that clear either.
Avid golfers might find some interest in the historical development of the sport, but for casual viewers, Tommy's Honour does very little to make the sport interesting. The acting and direction is competent enough, but the film doesn't generate any dramatic tension, and what is presented as conflict doesn't get much more intense than watching a round of golf on TV.