Maurice Flitcroft (Mark Rylance) is no ace—he’s an over-the-hill shipyard worker who has failed to make good on his promises to his wife Jean (Sally Hawkins) of champagne, caviar, and diamonds. In a fugue and disenchanted with life, Flitcroft is flipping through television channels when he stumbles upon a golf tournament and discovers a passion and fascination that sets him on a momentous—and highly absurd—journey to make a name for himself. And he does, when, by sheer determination, the middle-aged father snags a spot in the British Open Championship and plays a record-breaking game . . . golfing the worst score in the tournament’s history.
Director Craig Roberts (yes, the lead from the indie-classic, coming-of-age film Submarine) composes a playful retelling of one of the most ludicrous stories in sports history. The Phantom of the Open chronicles the unbelievable resolve of a man trying to prove that you can achieve anything. Roberts’s lighthearted film is a surreal comedy that pokes fun at one of the most serious sporting traditions and underscores the hypocrisy of golfing elitism. Shamed by the golf world and banned by many major clubs in the UK, Flitcroft refuses to concede. Rylance delivers an inspiring performance that makes shiny and new one of the most beloved cinematic tropes—that of the ultimate underdog.
The Phantom of the Open is a biopic of a refreshingly under-told story of an amateur player that let nothing stop him from etching his name into golf history. Despite overwhelming failure and lifetime bans, Flitcroft reenters the tournament multiple times with pseudonyms and disguises, gate-crashing the highest echelons of the golf world regardless of its numerous attempts to permanently oust him. Roberts’s The Phantom of the Open is a sincere yet deeply amusing and outrageously comical story of an unanticipated role model. PG-13, 106 min.