A young golfer with daddy issues has a meltdown on national television, and then finds himself stuck in a small town where he finds God and the ability to play golf again all in a week. This is Seven Days in Utopia and sure the story sounds typical and corny and it is, but it’s also meaningful and full of inspiration. That has to count for something. It is a wholesome movie that sort of feels like The Karate Kid, but placed in the South with the student being Lucas Black and the master being Robert Duvall.
Black plays young pro golfer Luke Chisholm who has a complete meltdown in his first big tournament for the whole world to see. He has a breakdown and years of trying to please his father (who is also his caddie) comes to a boiling point and ends with his own father walking away with his back turned. On his way home, Chisholm ends up in a wreck and while his car gets worked on, he finds himself stranded in Utopia where there are less than 400 people who live there. An old rancher named Johnny Crawford (Duvall) is the first person he meets and finds out he not only owns a golf course, but use to play with some of the greatest of all time. And Crawford makes a deal with Chisholm that if he stays a week in Utopia, he will find his game and learn some life lessons in the process.
Director Matt Russell makes his directorial debut and he puts together some nice scenes that bring out the countryside and the small town of Utopia. He makes a real attempt to shine a light on the religious aspects of the story without beating you over the head with it. The real focus is on Chisholm and his road back to recovery. The best thing Russell does is let the relationship between Chisholm and Crawford unfold and that is where the real heart of the story is.
Duvall is a screen legend and if he was not in this movie who knows if it would have ever been made at all. His character brings wisdom and experience when he is dealing with Chisholm, and there is no doubt that Duvall carries the same thing with him while working with Black. When Duvall talks, you listen because he knows what he is doing. Now his character uses all kinds of methods to teach Chisholm how to become a better golfer, and they are not that believable and do not really relate to golf at all. But I get it. He has to go through some sort of training before he can become a better athlete and a better man.
And Black is a believable golfer. There had to be some research and training involved because his swing looks pretty good and he knows the golf lingo. However, it is Duvall who picks this movie up and keeps it going. Melissa Leo is even a part of the cast, but she must have been bored and just wanted something to do because her character serves no purpose whatsoever.
Seven Days in Utopia is a small movie with a down-home message about God and redemption. The movie delivers a sincere message about life and many will find that appealing. For other folks in the audience, they won’t be able to get past the repeated formula and hokey moments that make up this story. And while it is a sports drama about golf, it tries to dig deeper in to the soul, but it perhaps tries a little too hard.
Overall, Seven Days in Utopia has the best of intentions and it’s heart is in the right place. But it offers nothing exciting or dramatic that will make you want to see it again. Honestly, if Duvall wasn’t in the movie, I am not even sure how interested I would have been to go in the first place.