The Phantom of the Open (2022) | Review


The ripple effect of Thatcher's "I believe that the job you do is fundamental to the future of Britain" era is still painstakingly carved into the realities of life in the United Kingdom in the present day. Among the disastrous fallout of her conscious cruelty were people losing their "meaningful" jobs, forced into looking further afield even in their older ages. Despite this, there was hope. There were people like Maurice Flitcroft, the subject of Craig Roberts' third feature film, who dared to dream in undreamable Britain. 

The undeniably compelling Mark Rylance steps into the golf shoes of Flitcroft, who crept his way into The British Open Golf Championship Qualifying round in 1976 and dared to believe he might have a shot at his dream. As eccentric as the film's muse, Roberts captures the beautiful optimism of Maurice through the exquisite set design born from the mind of Sarah Finlay, whose previous work consists of 45 Years, Ammonite, Supernova and Juliet, Naked. It's often a risk to bring fantastical elements to a story so rooted in reality, but Maurice spends the whole film encouraging those around him that they must reach for the stars at every opportunity, and consequently, we must do the same. It's easy to go along with Rylance and the marvellous Sally Hawkins, who plays his equally endearing wife, Jean Flitcroft. 

Their world is beautiful, and we crave a slice of it for ourselves as we wrap ourselves inside the words of BAFTA-nominated Paddington 2 screenwriter Simon Farnaby, who penned the adapted book of the same name alongside Scott Murray. "At least you can say you tried" and "love your mistakes" are carved into our hearts, making us believe that we, too, deserve the unmeasurable determination inside of Maurice. 

Despite its comedy and warmth, it tackles the reality of class and societal expectations. The ever-present narrative question of "who gets to dream?" beats at the heart of the film, reminding us that there's a division between who gets to reap the rewards of success and who must live to survive. The way the world views dreams can be cruel, and Roberts acknowledges this without caving in to the temptation of cynicism. Flitcroft is both unshakable and human. Grounded in perseverance but seen in moments of silent privacy interrogating his mind for what everyone around him is seeing, the excellence of Rylance is on full display throughout. 

The Phantom of the Open is how going to the movies should feel: hopeful. If you're not smiling so wide your cheeks ache, you're meditating on the compassion on display. "Pick all the flowers you can while you're still young," and spend 106 minutes with Maurice Flitcroft when it hits the big screen. You'll be better for it. 

The Phantom of the Open hits US theaters on June 3rd 2022

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