“Phantom of the Open” is Mark Rylance’s winning film about the worst British golfer in the history of the World Open.

Even people who find watching golf boring will enjoy “The Phantom of the Open,” a good-hearted laugh-out-loud comedy about Maurice Flitcroft (Mark Rylance), the man with the record for worst score (121) in 1976 British Open. Surprisingly, this was Flitcroft’s first full tour golf. How this happened – and the effect of this questionable achievement – form the basis of this charming film, which is based on a true story.

Directed by Craig Roberts, from a script by Simon Farnaby (“Paddington 2”)—who adapted the book he wrote with Scott Murray—This golf legend’s story blends the realism of a kitchen sink with imaginary flights. Flitcroft, who lived in Barrow-in-Furness, had a childhood that held some hope when he was sent to live with others while war.However, he ended up working for the Vickers shipyard, like his father.It was in the yards where he met his wife Jean (Sally Hawkins), an unmarried mother. He cheerfully raised her son Michael (Jake Davis), after which the couple gave birth to twins, Jane (Christian Lis) and James (Jonas Lis).

But when Michael got a job in the Vickers management offices, Morris advised that the yard would be nationalized, which would mean layoffs. The prospect of unemployment prompts Morris to figure out what he wants to do. On a whim, after watching golf on TV, Morris decided to enter the British Open. Cue the dream sequence with Van Gogh Starry night, grass staircase from A Dali Painting, giant golf tee. As Morris circles the globe and returns to his couch, he sinks into throwing the ball and thinks: How hard is golf?

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“The Phantom of the Open” shows how difficult it can be for a self-taught amateur golfer who has no club or sponsor to back him. But Jean supports him, filling out his entry form, and calling him a “professional” even when you write that his disability is arthritis. When the application is approved by Keith Mackenzie (Rhys Evans), President Morris and his colored blazer are brought to play. Unfortunately, he left 4 reliable irons in the car.

Morris is not disappointed playing his first round of golf at such a huge scale. Yes, he does win, tightly closing his eyes as he sways, as if praying for a decent shot, and his first drive—traveling eight feet—was met with little applause. As he shoots two numbers on multiple front nine holes, Mackenzie tries to convince Morris to retire. But the “bold hacker,” who asserts that every mistake is an opportunity to learn about golf, dismisses this. By the time he reached the eighteenth hole, Morris received a standing ovation. (To be fair, everyone was already clapping standing up.)

Herein lies the significance of Morris’ story. Dare to try. He tells his twins, as well as his friends at work, to go and live their dreams. His sons Jane and James have won international awards disco dancers. It’s tacky, but it’s true (!), and it provides the movie with blissful pop.

open ghostMark Rylance, Sally Hawkins, Christian Liss and Jonas Lees in “Phantom of the Open” (Sony Pictures Classics)

On top of that, Morris feels he deserves another chance. However, Mackenzie prevents him from playing. So, Morris comes up with a plan to re-star in the tournament under a pseudonym (one reveals, as a final credit reveals, that it was Arnold Balmetre; that’s Morris’s sense of humor.) “The Phantom of the Open” descends into goofball comedy as the haunted Morris and his truth about Green after discovering their trick, but that doesn’t stop him. (He came back a few times, but the movie only touched that aspect of his legend.)

Most of this thriller celebrates Morris’ epic failure. He practically encourages people to laugh with him, holding signs with his motto, “Practice is the way to perfection.” He established himself as a true underdog, and as his game improved, Morris was no less loving, even being honored by an American Championship in his name.

But his son Michael is embarrassed, and his colleagues in the management make fun of him. They are also angry that he disparaged Vickers (the shipyard has been cited as a patron of Morris). The father-son conflict, which is really about class and social mobility, generates some heart in the film as Michael needs to learn to embrace his humble father, rather than treat him with disdain. It steers the film toward the gullible, but this feel-good comedy needs some emotional tug-of-war. (Morris’ fight with MacKenzie is more comical than dramatic.)


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Rylance gives a winning performance as Morris, an arrogant optimist who may be gullible, but has a sly trait about him. His exchange with a Spanish golfer in the locker room before the Open Championship is touching and funny, and his scenes with Sweet Jane. As his supportive wife, Sally Hawkins is amusing when she meets a reporter (Ash Tandon) who informs her of Morris’ performance at the World Open, but she’s also tough when she punishes Michael for his behavior towards the man who raised him. However, it is a beautiful one-note role.

However, “The Phantom of the Open” is as attractive as Maurice Flitcroft. It is impossible not to be inspired by his incredible story.

“The Phantom of the Open” will be released in theaters starting June 3.

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