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Tolkien (Hoult) has a romantic relationship with fellow orphan and future wife Edith (Collins).

THIS is the man whose literary works have stoked the imagination of readers who are crazy about the fantasy genre.

Considered one of the best fantasy writers ever, his books were also adapted into two long-drawn fantastical trilogies that has spanned decades and won Oscars.

He created a beautiful language and an enchanting world that was huge enough to house a colourful selection of wonderful characters and creatures.

This movie tells the life story John Ronald Reuel Tolkien and attempts to unveil the man behind the legend.

It begins with showing the English writer, poet, philologist and academic as a boy, played by Harry Gilby, being told tales of dragons and knights by his mother Mabel (Laura Donnelly) as he plays with swords in a small village near Birmingham.

Unfortunately, Tolkien and his brother become orphans after his mother dies and they are put in the care of Father Francis Morgan (Colm Meaney) who lets them stay in a boarding house.

Although his beginnings in school are somewhat tough, he soon develops a bond that will last a lifetime with three of his best mates, Christopher Wiseman (Ty Tennant), Robert Gilson (Albie Marber) and Geoffrey Bache Smith (Adam Bregman).

Eventually they form a clique, calling themselves the T.C.B.S. (Tea Club, Barrovian Society) as they frequently gather at a cafe called Barrows after school to talk about all manner of artistic pursuits and their interests. How quaint.

The quartet then carry on their “fellowship” to their days in Oxford with an older Tolkien, now played by Nicholas Hoult, joined by Anthony Boyle as Geoffrey, Tom Glynn-Carney as Christopher and Patrick Gibson as Robert.

During his stay at the boarding house, Tolkien also develops a romance with fellow orphan and future wife Edith Bratt (Lily Collins) but is discouraged by Father Francis since the penniless young man has to make sure he can obtain a scholarship to complete his studies at Oxford.

But things later turn out well when Tolkien manages to study under Joseph Wright (Derek Jacobi), an eccentric philology professor at Oxford that further spurs on his love for languages.

The tense visual moments come in the form of the eruption of World War I that sees Tolkien and his lads being enlisted in the British Army and finally fighting for their lives in the horrific trenches during the Battle of Sommes.

Eventually the fellowship ends up in disarray after the war when two of his friends are killed.

Finnish director Dome Karukoski (of Tom Of Finland fame) presents a narrative that moves back and forth to reveal various aspects of his life in a placid fashion.

Some of the scenes like the trip to the opera and the ones involving war showcase events as well as a fever dream of images that would eventually become the things written into his works.

Although the cast deliver good portrayals all round, the movie itself is safe and unfortunately plain with too little moments that would actually be touching enough to leave a lasting impression.

Some highlights include a date between Tolkien and Edith at a stuffy establishment and an emotional scene where the titular character has a poignant conversation with the mother of his closest friend.

Viewers will get glimpses of Tolkien’s genius in this movie but it feels too much of a laborious origin story to trudge along with as the duration of the whole affair felt much longer than it really was.

It has been widely reported that the Tolkien estate had never supported this project which is probably a good thing.

The dry movie in itself is not a train wreck but with a marvellously creative man who clearly influenced a lot of people with his work, this big screen outing doesn’t hold up to his imaginative benchmark.

What a pity. Go watch the Hollywood version of the Lord Of The Rings films instead or better still, just read his amazing books.


Directed by Dome Karukoski

Starring Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins, Colm Meaney, Tom Glynn-Carney, Anthony Boyle

Duration 112 minutes

Rating 13

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