The Reel Review


Maurice Flitcroft is the worst golfer in the history of the British Open, scoring 121 (a disastrous 49 over par) after accidentally being allowed entry in the prestigious tournament’s qualifying round in 1976, despite never having played a round of golf. This adaptation of the similarly titled 2010 biography details how the determined former shipyard crane operator used disguises and fake names to continue to gate crash the Open, as well as other professional golf tournaments.

Christian Lees and Mark Rylance in Phantom at the Open

Oscar-winner Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) is the secret to the success of this sweet film, embodying Flitcroft’s good-natured, have-a-go attitude and relentless optimism, even in the face of merciless mockery. Unsurprisingly, the film is a predictable tale about how it is never too late to pursue one’s dreams, no matter what anyone else thinks. It is eerily reminiscent of 2016’s Eddie the Eagle, about England’s under-qualified ski jumper Eddie Edwards, who would compete at the 1988 Winter Olympics.

Christian Lees, Jonah Lees, Sally Hawkins and Mark Rylance in Phantom at the Open

In addition to Rylance, Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water, Maudie, Blue Jasmine) gives an absolutely beautiful, emotional performance as his wife Jean, giving writer Simon Farnaby’s charming screenplay even more heart. The joyous finalé is a guaranteed lump-in-the-throat, tear-in-the-eye moment, followed by a really nice compilation of archival footage of the real Maurice Flitcroft.


James Flitcroft

• James Flitcroft, one of Maurice Flitcroft’s surviving former world disco champion twin sons (Gene died in 2010), has a cameo appearance in the film as an onlooker cheering on Maurice, with screenwriter Simon Farnaby also appearing in a cameo as the frustrated French golfer watching Flitcroft in despair during the 1976 British Open.

Seve Ballesteros and Maurice Flitcroft at the 1976 British Open

• Writer Simon Farnaby says he chose Seve Ballesteros as the professional golfer in the fictional locker room scene because Ballesteros also had learned golf with a stick on the beach, and Farnaby felt that of all the professional golfers, the then 19-year-old Ballesteros, who shocked the golfing world by tying Jack Nicolaus for second place in his pro debut, would likely have been one to welcome Flitcroft.

• Twin brothers Christian and Jonah Lees also appeared as Jerry Lee Lewis and preacher Jimmy Swaggart in the 2017 CMT miniseries Sun Records, about the independent record label that was the first to record Lewis, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.

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