REVIEW – “The Phantom of the Open”

I can’t imagine a more fitting sports story for the writer of Paddington 2 to tackle than that of the true story of infamous golfer Maurice G. Flitcroft – a man who believed he could take on the most gifted golfers in the world and made a shooting score of 121; which is the worst score ever recorded at the Open Championship. This may sound like it’s room for a film that will laugh at Flitcroft (and sometimes it does!) but it mostly operates as a simple and truly charming film about fulfilling your dreams, no matter the cost or what people will say about you. Writer Simon Farnaby echos his optimism found in his screenplay for Paddington 2 and delivers such kindness and humor to a truly lovely story.

It’s also very apparent from the opening moments that director Craig Roberts is the real-deal and a huge reason why this is as good as it is. While the screenplay from Farnaby is a very big contributing factor in my opinion, Roberts’ direction adds a lot of genuine style and color to Flitcroft’s story that manages to make it feel truly visually unique. Farnaby’s writing and Roberts’ direction truly feel like a match made in heaven; both warm in its DNA and beautifully designed and detailed.

Mark Rylance plays Flitcroft, and does an absolutely outstanding job in the role – nailing the comedy, emotional beats, and general underdog-isms perfectly. It would be so easy to portray the man as lesser or out of his mind, but Roberts and Farnaby find a great way to explore what led Flitcroft to want to tackle his favorite game – both due to the political climate at the time and also understanding Flitcroft’s personal life with his family and how he truly never got the opportunity prior. In fact, some of the best scenes are with his sons or his wife played wonderfully by Sally Hawkins.

There’s a slight point in the film where it does feel a bit too light and feathery for its own good, but it pretty quicky won me back over due to the pure entertainment value and sweetness on display. It’s very akin to 2016’s Eddie the Eagle, in terms of watching someone who barely gets-by at the sport they love and yet you can’t take your eyes off of them and deeply want them to succeed at what they’re trying to accomplish. While it might not be the most original sports film out there, it’s told with so much sincerity and heart that I truly think anyone can enjoy and find inspiration from it.


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