The Phantom of the Open, 2021.
Directed by Craig Roberts.
Starring Mark Rylance, Sally Hawkins, Rhys Ifans, Jake Davies, Christian Lees, Jonah Lees, Mark Lewis Jones, and Johann Myers.
Down on his luck Maurice Flitcroft from Barrow In Furness finds his job at the shipyard in jeopardy and decides to try his hand at Golf, entering into the prestigious Open Championship. Maurice manages to break records but not the sorts he would have wanted earning the nickname Phantom Of The Open.
There have been a number of feel-good British comedy dramas over the years with the likes of The Full Monty, Billy Elliot and Eddie The Eagle proving huge hits, so audiences might not necessarily be ready for another. The Phantom of the Open is the latest film that could be considered in this category and has received its world premiere at the London Film Festival, it is an absolute treat from start to finish.
The cast led by the ever-dependable Mark Rylance are near flawless with Rylance excelling in the role of the seemingly ordinary Flitcroft who comes to enjoy the media and golfing community’s attention. Rylance proves here he is adept at mixing comedy and drama with this proving a considerably lighter role than his work on Wolf Hall or Dunkirk. Sally Hawkins who has proved herself in recent years to be a fierce talent gives a stellar performance as Jean Flitcroft, Maurice’s reliable wife who supports his golfing career through its ups and (mostly) downs. Rhys Ifans is a fun foil as the chairman of the Royal St Andrews club, determined to stop Morris in his tracks. The performances of Rylance and Hawkins really sell the relationship between the pair which is where much of the film’s best work stems from, at its heart this is a family drama through and through.
The balance of humour and drama really helps set the film apart and the script from Simon Farnaby (Paddington) helps drive this. Farnaby has shown with the Paddington films he can bring pathos to comedy. The tonal balance is sure to make this a hit with audiences in the UK especially. We are treated to some superb direction from Craig Roberts in his third film as director shows a natural aptitude to direction and one can only hope this is the start of a special career.
Isobel Waller-Bridge’s score is a lovely addition, helping to balance the film’s tonal shifts to perfection and it is wonderfully complemented by the heavily disco soundtrack that evokes the mid to late 70s setting in which the bulk of the film takes place. This is in part due to the fact the Flitcroft Twins are world champion disco dancers.
The Phantom of the Open works best as a showcase for its talented cast, proving the versatility of Mark Rylance and Sally Hawkins in particular. This is a constantly fun watch with a real sense of heart and meaning. One can imagine audiences perhaps being unsure what to expect but part of the film’s joy is in its surprise package and not knowing much about Maurice’s story going in will deepen the enjoyment as it is a huge delight and not at all predictable. Comparisons to the likes of Cool Runnings and Eddie the Eagle should be seen as a compliment and this will no doubt make a fine addition to the plethora of films about sporting (predominantly British)mediocrity. This will further cement Simon Farnaby as a clear screenwriting force to be reckoned with and proves a delightful directorial effort from Craig Roberts whose imaginative direction marks him out as one to keep an eye on.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★