"Putting First Things First"
TOMMY’S HONOUR is a historical drama based on the true story of the two men who revolutionized the sport of modern golf, Old Tom Morris and his son, Tommy, beginning in the 1860s. A nearly two-hour-long movie set in 1870s Scotland about golf may not sound like everyone’s cup of tea, but the actors’ affecting performances and chemistry, strong Christian concepts of repentance and forgiveness, and the ability of director Jason Connery (Sean’s son) to make the game seem exciting, make TOMMY’S HONOUR well worth watching for mature viewers.
Old Tom Morris (Peter Mullan) is a legend at St. Andrews, where golf consumes his life. He standardizes, popularizes, performs, and idolizes the game. However, soon his son, Young Tommy (Jack Lowden), begins to best him on the links. Tommy begins to chafe at his father’s outdated view of the world, making decisions that threaten to destroy his relationships with his parents and upend all social norms of his day. One of Old Tom’s decisions, motivated by pride, leads to a father’s worst heartbreak and a lifetime of repentance and reparation.
Old Tom raises Young Tommy on the course to hit the ball “far and sure,” a motto his son applies to life. He intends to become the first golf professional, rather than a caddy to the “gentlemen” of the area, like his father. He also craves the respect the high-bred receive. The father-and-son make their money by receiving a portion of the winnings their wealthy backers make by gambling on golf outings. As the teenage prodigy makes his mark, his father’s golf skills deteriorate, recreating the dynamic of the movie versions of A STAR IS BORN in a fresh context.
Young Tommy falls in love with Margaret, “Meg,” a woman of lower social class than his own, a decade older than him, who has a dark secret in her past. The two begin a forbidden love, including premarital sex, but eventually marry against his parents’ wishes. At the same time, Young Tom rebels against the way golfers are paid and how respect is given only to those born into wealth and status.
Ultimately, Old Tom doesn’t commit suicide like Norman Maine in A STAR IS BORN; he does something far worse. Trying desperately to hold on to his glory days, he makes decision in order to keep playing golf that shatters his family. Young Tommy, portrayed as morally and religiously questionable, reforms after his marriage and rightly tells his father, “Golf is your god.”
The moral themes in TOMMY’S HONOUR are as complicated as the movie’s realistic characters. Premarital sex is shown as not only ruining Meg’s life; but also, leading to her marriage. Christianity is strongly portrayed as a positive, but the Morris family openly mocks a minister during a sermon (although the minister said something that could be questioned theologically). Gambling and alcohol abuse are presented as facts of life with little moral commentary. These elements warrant caution for older children.
Despite these problem areas, TOMMY’S HONOUR has a strong Christian, moral worldview. Forgiveness runs throughout the picture. The Morris family eventually reconciles with Meg, and Young Tom forgives Old Tom. His father, now wiser, spends the rest of his days telling others of his son’s abilities, as only a grief-stricken parent can do.
(CC, Ro, Ab, P, L, V, S, AA, D, MM) Strong Christian elements of repentance, forgiveness, and the importance of family, marred by some light Romantic elements, three church services depicted on screen including a wedding, Bible read twice, a reference to golf becoming an idol, characters make positive references to “Christian example,” “Sabbath,” stewardship, Heaven, and church, but also a light profane use of God’s Name and the word “Halleluiah,” a joking reference that two people are “past salvation,” and a child sticks his tongue out at a minister during a church service, plus some light patriotic elements of Scottish vs. English; two obscenities, one profanity, and calling a lady a “tart”; light violence includes two fistfights, the beginning of another fight, and a reference to “hack(ing) off” someone’s forehead”; two cases of implied fornication and a reference to prior fornication, references to prostitution, some kissing; no nudity, but two men strip to long-johns to swim; substantial alcoholism including 10 depictions of drinking on-screen and three off-screen, a flask and wine glasses are shown; one scene of tobacco smoke drifting onto the screen, but smoking is not shown; and, strong gambling elements onscreen and off (seven references), and a mildly racist reference to a “red Indian.”
TOMMY’S HONOUR is an historical drama about the dysfunctional relationship between the men credited with revolutionizing modern golf in the second half of the 19th Century, Old Tom Morris and his son, Young Tommy. Old Tom is a model of Christian maturity, until his love for the game of modern golf, the game he created, leads him on a path that will destroy his beloved son and others. Young Tom is a rebel who discovers what his father did not: that some things are more important than sports.
A two-hour movie about golf set in 19th Century Scotland may not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, the movie’s appealing performances, strong Christian concepts of repentance and forgiveness, and Director Jason Connery’s ability to make the game exciting, make TOMMY’S HONOUR well worth watching. Rated PG, TOMMY’S HONOUR has a strong Christian, moral worldview. The Morris family eventually reconciles with Young Tom’s wife, and Young Tom forgives Old Tom. That said, realistic depictions of alcoholism, an amoral portrayal of gambling and references to premarital sex in TOMMY’S HONOUR warrant caution for older children.