Review: ‘The Phantom of the Open’ recalls Maurice Flitcroft’s ludicrous, lighthearted stunt

It’s a story of a golfer. More important, it’s a story about a husband, a father, a man who gave up chasing his dreams so his kids could pursue theirs.

But, as he later realized, life isn’t as long as we all think.

The premise may sound a bit cliche, but “The Phantom of the Open,” which debuted in select theaters on June 3, is anything but. The movie follows Maurice Flitcroft (played by Mark Rylance), a man who fell in love with the game of golf later in life at the age of 46. His first encounter with the sport came via television as he watched Tom Watson win the 1975 Open Championship.

But Flitcroft’s fame grew during qualifying for the 1976 Open Championship when he entered as a professional, even though he’d never played a tournament round.

He went on to shoot the highest score in Open history qualifying, a 121. As you might expect, officials from the R&A weren’t particularly amused by the stunt.

The film centers around golf, but as the story unfolds, feelings of family, love, and risk-taking overshadow anything that transpired when Flitcroft had a club in his hand.

His relationship with his wife, Jean (played by Sally Hawkins), was a highlight of the film. Her continued support of her husband as he chased his dreams despite financial issues back home showed the loving relationship the two shared.

Sally Hawkins, left, and Mark Rylance as Jean and Maurice Flitcroft in “The Phantom of the Open.” (Nick Wall/Sony Pictures Classics)

Craig Roberts, the director, had this to say about targeting Rylance for the role of Flitcroft: “The key to Maurice is that he is sincere. We were trying to think of an actor who we always believed, no matter what they’re doing. Mark just has that in his eyes. You just believe it. You want to empathize with him, you want to be on his side…”

“The Phantom of the Open” is a heartwarming story that will make you laugh, appreciate your loved ones, and maybe even cry. It’s an enjoyable watch for anyone who loves the game of golf.

“Phantom of the Open” opened in New York, Los Angeles on June 3, and will open in 30 additional markets next week. By June 17, it’s scheduled to be in theaters everywhere.