the phantom of the open
starring: mark rylance, sally hawkins, rhys ifans, and mark lewis jones
REVIEWER: nick tonkin
Amateur golfer Maurice Flitcroft achieves his late-in-life goal of participating in the British Open Golf Championship, much to the ire of the staid golfing community.
Maurice Flitcroft became a folk hero after gaining entry to the qualifying round of the 1976 British Open despite his lack of club membership, and his golfing experience consisting of a golf instruction guide from the library and some time on both playing fields around his home and the beach. The Phantom of the Open is an adaptation of the biography of the same name about Flitcroft, also written by the film’s screenwriter Simon Farnaby, and directed by Craig Roberts.
Leading the film are the excellent Mark Rylance and Sally Hawkins as Maurice and his wife Jean respectively with support from some talented character actors, notably Mark Lewis Jones as the sticky fingered Cliff and Rhys Ifans, wonderfully personifying the sense of humour of the British Golfing establishment.
The film presents Maurice as a kind hearted dreamer of a man, who suddenly comes to see golf as a new challenge and purpose for his life as his longtime position as a crane operator at the shipyard comes to a close, much to the initial bemusement and later encouragement of family and friends.
Rylance’s performance is key to the success of the film as his Flitcroft is convincingly sincere and unpretentious; allowing the film to present the idea that this man decided to enter an international professional competition without an ulterior motive, or for some other selfish or egotistical reason.
Phantom’s script does take creative license with Maurice’s story, inventing some elements to provide the plot with moments of drama and conflict, though this just serves to make the story feel more complete.
This provides opportunity to contrast the temperaments of optimism and pragmatism, expressed well in the key moment of drama in the film; when Flitcroft and his son Micheal are at odds over his involvement in the sport and in the manner Flitcroft has chosen, and what this could cost their family.
While it is in Mark Rylance’s charming performance as Flitcroft that the film’s heart resides, The Phantom of the Open handles Maurice Flitcroft’s story compassionately, presenting the man as a good-natured and optimistic individual seizing his chance at a new passion and direction in life.
With Mark Rylance's charming performance as its beating heart, The Phantom of the Open comes together wonderfully as a feel-good story with substance and excellent performances.