Mark Rylance Delivers Another Great Stroke with ‘The Phantom of the Open’ (Review)

by | Jun 24, 2022

You’ll laugh, but cheer on this wonderful British film about, “The World’s Worst Golfer.”

No matter the quality of the film, Mark Rylance always seems to deliver a fine performance in whatever he’s in. However, both films he has been in this year are great. Earlier this year, he delivered a great performance in the clever crime thriller, The Outfit. Three months later, he’s back with another great performance in the sweet and wonderful The Phantom of the Open. You don’t have to know golf to enjoy this British film. What feels like it would be a picture the size of a golf ball offers up a true story that delivers big laughs and heart 100 times the size of the object at the center of the sport. 

The Phantom of the Open tells the story of Maurice Flitcroft (Rylance), who has ambitions to play in the British Open Golf Championship, one of the most prestigious golf tournaments in the world. Despite his age and poor skills, Flitcroft is determined to play in the tournament after seeing golf up close for the first time. He practices all the time, and while his skills never see much improvement, he remains optimistic in his newfound dream. While pursuing this new endeavor in addition to working his day job at a construction company, he is supported by his wife, Jean Flitcroft (Sally Hawkins), and two of his three children, who also happen to be twins. Once Flitcroft exploits loopholes to gain entry in the tournament, you can only imagine what happens next. 

Based on a true story, The Phantom of the Open is about what you would expect on paper after reading the synopsis; but there is actually more to the story beyond the tournament. Sure, you’ll laugh when you watch Flitcroft on the golf course; after all, he was deemed the worst-ever golfer following his performance at the British Open. And on every backswing, you can’t help but wonder how his shot will go before by the time he completes the follow through. But the film’s radiant hope and optimism, from start to finish, will surprise and warm its viewers’ hearts. You can’t help but grin and cheer internally for Flitcroft and his family once you are drawn into this story, which may seem silly to some, but offers one of the best messages in a film this year. 

Rylance is terrific in the role of the title character of this film. I can’t help but wonder whether, when presented with this story, he immediately thought of it as an opportunity for him to bring the same level of the joy to this movie that he has delivered in his other roles. In archival footage shown at the end of this film, you can see the similarities between the real-life Maurice Flitcroft and Rylance himself; they both come across as joyous people. It’s always good to see Sally Hawkins in a film, even if it is infrequently these days; she has great chemistry with Rylance. And in a smaller performance, Rhys Ifans is pitch perfect as one of the tournament officials who will do anything to prevent Flitcroft from ever stepping on a golf course he runs. 

Summer blockbusters are in full force at theaters, but it’s relaxing to have a small film like this that’s as quiet as the game it shows on screen. The Phantom of the Open will win you over with its warmth. And by film’s end, you may just find that sense of optimism you’ve been looking for in whatever you have/were pursuing.


RATING: ★★★★ 

(out of five stars)