The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings built the detailed fantasy world of Middle-earth and are still revered for their depth and complexity to this day. Both tales came from the mind of J.R.R. Tolkien, and the background of Tolkien’s life is the subject of the film with the simple title Tolkien.
Tolkien (Nicholas Hoult) did many things you would expect of a young boy, and others you wouldn’t. He and his friends Rob, Geoffrey and Christopher formed a secret society to share experiences and observations on life. Tolkien had a love of language like no other, and that love would be realized, but not until later in life.
While living in a boarding school with his brother under the care of Father Francis Morgan (Colm Meaney), Tolkien meets the love of his life, Edith Bratt (Lily Collins). Father Morgan won’t let the relationship develop, as he is committed to putting Tolkien on a better path and helping him reach his higher education goals. In the good Father’s mind, this relationship is a distraction.
Tolkien’s life is filled with love and heartbreak, highs and lows, and a number of interesting moments with his friends.
This film took a surprising hold on me. Although I slowly worked my way into the story, I found myself fascinated by the life of a man I knew very little about. How he lived prior to his amazing works being published was as varied as it was fascinating, from his romance with Edith to his friendships, and from his time in war to his studies at Oxford.
As Tolkien and Edith begin their courtship, there is a scene at a restaurant table where Tolkien is explaining his love for language. As the story unfolds, the connection that develops onscreen between Hoult and Collins mesmerized me. I’ve rarely seen something so sensual and deep played out with nary an item of clothing dropped to the ground but with simple touch and language as the driving factors. Kudos to director Dome Karukoski for being able to relay the depth of a relationship without resorting to cheap onscreen gimmicks. It was truly breathtaking.
Karukoski’s attention to detail is present throughout the various relationships and life events in Tolkien. I found myself engaged in every aspect of Tolkien’s life. The weaving of pieces that everyone knows about his fantasy tomes is the thread that holds the story together, and it comes across as clever, though obvious.
This is a delightfully engaging story with first-rate performances that leads me to only one conclusion — Tolkien is precious.
Tolkien is available On Demand and on DVD beginning Aug. 6. Check your cable system for availability