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THE PHANTOM OF THE OPEN (hereafter simply referred to as “PHANTOM”) is directed by Craig Roberts. The film stars Mark Rylance, Sally Hawkins, and Rhys Ifans.

Maurice Flitcroft is a crane operator living in England, married and a father to three children. Upon stumbling across a golf match on television, he decides to participate in the British Open, but his social status, lack of wealth, and no experience as a player lead to ridicule, with him being banned from British golf courses following the worst score in history. This leads to even more eccentric attempts to get back into the golfing world, with Flitcroft gaining the ire of British golf officials, while becoming an unlikely hero to working-class folks across the United Kingdom, and even overseas.

Sometimes, stories of working-class heroes with big dreams are the best ones. PHANTOM gives audiences Mark Rylance portraying Maurice Flitcroft, a man who became recognized not for his talent and rise to fame, but for blunders and failures that mad him more relatable to everyday folks. At times, it’s laugh-out-loud funny. Sometimes it’s a family drama with a heart. What’s amazing is how well everything comes together. PHANTOM Is simultaneously the funniest movie about golf since CADDYSHACK, yet also manages to work from a dramatic angle with its lower-class struggles of the Flitcroft family, many of whom have their own dreams and drama.

I’ve seen Mark Rylance show up in many films in recent years, perhaps most notably DUNKIRK and READY PLAYER ONE. He’s always been a fantastic supporting actor, but it’s good to see PHANTOM finally gives this guy a chance to shine in a leading role. He’s timid and soft-spoken, yet a caring family man who'd never say a hurtful thing to anyone. He marries the love of his life despite her having a child out of wedlock, willingly becoming a father to her boy. He encourages his own twin boys to pursue their dreams as professional disco dancers. Despite looking like a fool, pursuing a new sport and goal in his 40s, he goes for it, believing he can only get better. Some scenes have to be seen to be believed. I don’t remember the last time a film character made me laugh as hard as Rylance’s portrayal of Flitcroft, yet it’s a touching story and its more dramatic moments stand as some of the best. Maurice Flitcroft is the role Mark Rylance was born to play. It’s an award-worthy performance that deserves recognition.

While this is Rylance’s movie first and foremost, the rest of the cast fares just as well. In particular, the performance of Sally Hawkins as Mrs. Flitcroft, the one woman willing to support her husband’s eccentric dreams and schemes, while also doing what’s necessary to bring her family together even as separate careers and goals make them drift apart. Seeing Rhys Ifans play “straight man” as a British golf individual who wants nothing more than to have Flitcroft banned from playing golf professionally versus our hero’s ridiculous extremes to be able to play makes for some hilarious moments.

The film also paints a picture of working-class life in an English town, showing people who devote their entire lives to their careers and supporting families, only to know said jobs could be gone in a moment’s notice due to changes in management and the like. It truly paints a scenario where people want to chase their dreams to escape endless doldrums and an unfulfilling life. Elements like this are all the more relatable to the viewer, and it further contributes to everything else this movie offers. Nothing feels artificial or forced.

PHANTOM is a must-see. Equal parts hilarious and heartwarming, it’s a laugh-out-loud journey with a surprisingly satisfying conclusion. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll laugh some more before it’s all said and done. It’s got a career-defining performance for Mark Rylance, and you certainly don’t have to be a sports fan to enjoy this one. Absolute highest recommendations!

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