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dir Jason Connery
scr Pamela Marin, Kevin Cook
prd Keith Bank, Jim Kreutzer, Bob Last, Tim Moore
with Peter Mullan, Jack Lowden, Ophelia Lovibond, Sam Neill, Max Deacon, Therese Bradley, Peter Ferdinando, Neil Pendleton, Brett Alan Hart, Kylie Hart, Paul Reid, Benjamin Wainwright
release US 14.Apr.17, UK 7.Jul.17
Generation gap: Lowden and Mullan
EDINBURGH FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Warm and earnest, this Scottish period drama tells a nice story of the father and son who created golfing as we know it today, from the style of courses to the design of clubs to the nature of being a professional player. It's a solidly produced film that rushes through about 10 years without very much focus, but there are moments of moving drama along the way.
In late-1860s St Andrews, expert greenkeeper, caddy and player Tom Morris (Mullan) has a hand in every aspect of the course. But he knows his status as a worker, leaving the clubhouse to the gentlemen. His teen son Tommy (Lowden), on the other hand, becomes a superstar player, challenging the status quo by stealing the limelight from the men who make a fortune gambling over him. As he accumulates money and power, Tommy's rebellious streak extends to his choice of a wife, Meg (Lovibond), an experienced woman his devout mother (Bradley) refuses to accept.
The script jumps from one key event to the next one, as Tom recounts this momentous decade to a journalist (Reid) many years later. Shot in spectacular locations around Scotland, the characters feature equally spectacular facial hair, with whiskers bristling everywhere. And there's also rather a lot of golf, including matches in rain, snow and sunshine that have major significance that isn't made terribly clear in either the script or the hurried editing.
At the centre, Lowden is a charismatic protagonist. He beautifully plays Tommy's lively confidence and deeper thoughtfulness, making sense of his defiant choices and striking resilience. Opposite him, Mullan has a more stoic role, and he underplays it very nicely. Lovibond gets to inject some feisty energy into the film, and also beings to life some rather moving dramatic sequences. But all of the themes are right there on the surface to see, with little subtext.
This rather straightforward approach leaves the movie feeling rather thin. But it's so beautifully shot, and the story so fascinating, that it holds the interest. The father-son plotlines also add some weight to the film, including a gentle variation on the old-versus-new world struggle, which provides a resonant central relationship arc to work around. It may feel rather soft and easy, lacking in any real edge, but it's a terrific introduction to the story of Tom and Tommy Morris. And it will make you want to read more about them.
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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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