FlixChatter Review: The Phantom of the Open (2022) – a feel-good underdog story boosted by Mark Rylance’s endearing performance


For in-flight viewing, I tend to catch up on movies I had missed and I always opted for feel-good fares as who wants to be spooked or stressed out while flying? The Phantom Of The Open is definitely a perfect movie to watch for such an occasion! 

It’s a biopic of Maurice Flitcroft, a crane operator in a shipyard who somehow managed to gain entry to the 1976 British Open Golf Championship qualification round in his mid-40s despite being a complete novice. In fact, he has not played golf before he decided he wanted to get into the championship, and ended up scoring 121. Just for comparison’s sake, Tiger Woods’ lowest round ever in competition is 61.


The always-reliable Mark Rylance plays Flitcroft and truly embodies his genial, kind and eccentric personality. The film also shows his heart-rending relationship with his wife Jean (Sally Hawkins), a single mom of a young boy who’s never known his dad. Despite his ludicrous ideas and seemingly unattainable ambition, Jean remains supportive of her husband. The biggest dramatic conflict is between Maurice and his adult stepson Michael (Jake Davies) who’s climbing the ladder at the conglomerate firm Vickers-Armstrongs, given his snooty bosses’ low opinion of his blue-collar family. Meanwhile, Maurice and Jean’s own identical twins Gene and James (Christian and Jonah Lees) have big ambitions of their own to become the world’s biggest disco duo.

The screenplay by Simon Farnaby (who as a cameo as a pro golfer) is based on Scott Murray’s book ‘The Phantom of the Open: Maurice Flitcroft, The World’s Worst Golfer’ and his golf-playing definitely lives up to that moniker. Now, to be fair, Maurice didn’t get many opportunities to practice on a proper golf course, as he’s been banned by practically every local golf club in the port town of Barrow-in-Furness. Even when he mustered up some cash to join, the snobbish members adamantly don’t see him fit to belong there. 


One can’t help but be charmed by this underdog story, a tale of an unrelenting optimist and endearing dreamer whose motto is ‘practice is the road to perfection.’ Actor/director Craig Roberts clearly has utter respect for his subject matter, as the movie is a heartwarming tribute to his life and unconventional golf ‘career.’ After 1976, the golf competition rules were changed to prevent Flitcroft from ever entering again, not that it’d deter Maurice, mind you. The scenes where Maurice uses disguises like a false mustache and a wig to enter other golf competitions are hilarious but done in a mirthful and empathetic way. Along with his buddy Cliff (Mark Lewis Jones) as his caddy, Maurice’s chosen pseudonyms include Gerrard Hoppy, complete with a silly French accent, and Arnold Palmtree, ha!


This is such a delightful and enjoyable movie through and through. Maurice is instantly likable so it was effortless to be fully invested in his journey. At the lowest moment of his life, a pleasant surprise turns up for him in a form of an invitation from a country club all the way in Michigan! Sometimes dreams do come true in this golf Cinderella story and it really couldn’t have happened to a nicer fellow. Rylance proves once again he’s such a versatile actor who can perfectly balance comedy and drama. Sally Hawkins is lovely as Jean, while Rhys Ifans‘s character represents the worst of the snobs Maurice encounters.

The score by Isobel Waller-Bridge is notably whimsical and has that bubbly spirit, which is par for the course. Now, I for one am not really a big golf fan which I find rather tedious, but this movie is far from boring thanks to the terrific script and performances. After such a superb, flawless script he wrote for Paddington 2, Barnaby follows it up with another uplifting story that also inspires you to go after your dreams, but also to prepare yourself for every eventuality.

4/5 stars

Have you seen The Phantom of the Open? I’d love to hear what you think!

6 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: The Phantom of the Open (2022) – a feel-good underdog story boosted by Mark Rylance’s endearing performance

    1. Rylance never misses no matter the role. Love seeing him in this feel-good movie and like you, I don’t know much about golf but it was still fun to watch.

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