What to Watch This Weekend: The Phantom of the Open

The Phantom of the Open is the story of Maurice Flitcroft (Mark Rylance). Based upon true events, Flitcroft was working as a crane operator in Britain when by chance he stumbled upon the 1974 Piccadilly World Match Play Championship—one of the world’s top golfing tournaments. With a bolt of an idea, Flitcroft decided he would suddenly take up the sport and despite never having swung a club in his life, compete in the 1976 British Open. Through the combination of his own charismatic guile and the help of his family, Flitwick would gain entry to the match and the results would have long-ranging effects that he could not have possibly imagined.

What works in The Phantom of the Open is Rylance’s charming performance in the heartwarming tale. Even those unfamiliar with the game of golf will find Flitwick’s ambitious journey relatable as a man who doesn’t know (or want to acknowledge) the meaning of the word “preposterous.” Rylance always has a twinkle in his eye, a heart full of love, and unbridled optimism bursting from every seam—he’s impossible not to root for. And in Flitcroft there are some wonderful messages about inspiration and aspiration. The concept of “follow your dreams” is at the forefront here as Flitcroft goes to some rather amusing lengths to see his through. At the same time, the wannabe golfer also realizes some positive unexpected consequences as he becomes an icon to others.

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The Phantom of the Open contains a bit of dramatization that some viewers may find distracting. The clearest example of this are a few artistic choices which attempt to show viewers Flitwick’s mind and imagination at work through dream-like sequences. While pretty, these moments might feel out of place to some. In addition, many sports movies have a bit of a formula to them, and this outing is no different. There is the natural “fall before the rise,” mostly surrounding some discontent with the Flitwick family. This is not to say it did not occur, but it may feel forced in some instances.

The Phantom of the Open is a delightful family sports film. It has a stranger-than-fiction quality to it which bring many smiles and laughs as Flitwick confidently makes his mark on the golfing world. Recommended.

You can find The Phantom of the Open in theaters starting on June 10th.

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