Tolkien – a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

June 13, 2019 by Roz Tarszisz
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It is not necessary to have read The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien to view this offering from director Dome Karukoski (Tom of Finland).   However, for aficionados of the books or movies, clues to the author’s ideas are strewn throughout the production and it is fun to take note of them.

Tolkien and his younger brother Hilary are impoverished youngsters, living in Birmingham and homeschooled by their widowed mother.  When she dies they are lucky that family priest, Father Francis (Colm Meany) becomes their guardian. He finds them lodgings in a decent home with Mrs Smith (Genevieve O’Reilly) and gets them into a good school.

While JRR (Nicholas Hoult) doesn’t fit in financially at school, he certainly does intellectually. He becomes firm friends with Robert Gilson (Patrick Gibson), Christopher Wiseman (Tom Glynn-Carney) and Geoffrey Smith (Anthony Boyle). They form a secret society, hoping to change the world through the arts – and their binding fellowship.

He also becomes friends with Edith Bratt (Lily Collins) also an orphan, who lives with Mrs Smith as her young companion and that friendship leads to love when they become adults.

JRR is very clever and creates his own language. His subsequent interest in old English at university and meeting with Professor Wright (Derek Jacobi) are all part of the background for his eventual epic tale of good and evil. While all this is of great interest, the film does succeed as a multilayered story of love, courage and abiding friendship.

JRR and his friends are at university when World War I breaks out and they all join up.  The story is told through JRR’s eyes and weaves back and forward in time as he stumbles around the bloody trenches of the Somme, sick with trench fever. He is only saved by the dogged determination of Private Sam Hodges (Craig Roberts).

Lily Collins is luminous as JRR’s muse, frustrated by her situation as a woman with no means. They share so much as orphans and like all good love stories, it’s not an easy road to happiness. Performances are all good.

4/5 112mins  Classified M Released June 13

Stars Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins, Colm Meany, Derek Jacobi

Directed by Dome Karukoski

Written by David Gleeson, Stephen Beresford

Music by Thomas Newman


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