The golfing biopic “Tommy’s Honour,” a tribute to a father and son who helped put the game on the map, is like the Masters Tournament and “Masterpiece Theater” rolled into one: beautiful fairways, polite gentlemen and a little drama every now and then. Much like golf, the movie moves at a stately pace, but the fine performances and workable storyline keep things on course.
Tommy Morris (Jack Lowden, very good) has grown up near the links of storied St. Andrews in Scotland, where his father, Tom (Peter Mullan, just as good), serves as the greenskeeper — and the expert golfer. Tommy learns from the best, and when the story begins in the late 1860s, the 17-year-old golfing prodigy is ready to swing his way to legendary status.
Director Jason Connery (son of Sean) tells most of the story through the eyes of the younger Tommy, who rebels against the class system — and his father’s wishes — to become a professional golfer, not just a commoner caddy. Some of the best scenes involve Tommy’s sparring with his father and with St. Andrews bigwig Alexander Boothby (Sam Neill, a welcome presence) over one’s place in society.
The teenage Tommy also raises eyebrows when he courts the older Meg (Ophelia Lovibond, quite good), who has a scandalous past, at least by 1860s standards. This relationship gives the film its strongest emotional drive, even more so than the father-son rivalry, which seems oddly flat beyond their societal disputes.
Indeed, the genteel “Tommy’s Honour” sometimes falls into a sand trap where the dramatic tension slackens — the golf matches, for example, impress only for their production values — but each time, with a few strokes, Connery gets us out of the rut. He hasn’t made a film for the ages, but it’s on par with other decent historical sports dramas.