Tolkien explores the formative years of the orphaned author as he finds friendship, love and artistic inspiration among a group of fellow outcasts at school.
Tolkien is a marvelous journey into the past and into the famous author’s mind! The audience learns of the origins of the man and his experiences which inspired the The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. We learn of J.R.R. Tolkien’s father’s early death, and not long after that, he finds his mother dead—she who read myths and legends to him and encouraged his love of languages and the written word. But his world, and his brother Hilary’s, was soon to change. The film delves into the early hardships he endured in Birmingham, England—entering an orphanage and, also, discovering the love of his life, a teen girl named Edith, who helps him realize that language itself needs an association so that feelings can accompany it. She uses the association between a hand and a touch.
Tolkien meets three others who are like-minded. They form a literary club, where they share ideas and drink tea. But, as the film realistically depicts, Tolkien’s hardships continue; the war claims two of his friends. Another hardship Tolkien endures is when his priest, requested by his mother to be his guardian, tells Tolkien he must forget about Edith and attend Oxford. He does, with regret, and then not long after the beginning of World War 1, young Tolkien finds himself in a soldier’s uniform.
The war scenes are realistic, portraying the horror of war with explosions, soldiers crumpling underneath rifle fire, and even being set on fire by shooting flames from the enemy’s flame thrower. In one scene, we see Tolkien lying under a blanket, wounded and tired, with corpses lying all around him. He has trench fever and later awakens in a hospital, with Edith at his bedside. The priest tells him later, “She never left your side. You were right about her.” But despite this good news, Tolkien also learns some tragic news.
One reviewer has called this film “plodding” and although it’s true it’s slow in spots with a lot of dialogue between characters, it also is a creative film, showing Tolkien’s fertile imagination in seeing dragons, a Ringwraith and—could it be?—the dark Lord Sauron? The origins of his famous characters are seen in the young man’s mind and imagination.
Tolkien never forgot his friends and, without giving the exact ending away, near the conclusion he comes up with an idea for a story about hobbits and about “fellowship” or “friendship.” My one criticism of the film is that it would have been nice if it would have led up to Tolkien’s later years instead of alluding to it with a narration at the end and with the words on the screen telling us about his end life. It focuses a lot on the young man, but I would have liked to have seen more of the older man, “the legend.” I would have loved to have seen him hobnobbing with C.S. Lewis, or another scene or two of him at his desk, pipe in mouth, writing his legendary and mythic novels.
However, the good news is that the film is Dove-Approved for Ages 12+. Other than a few war scenes of death, not overly graphic, the film is fairly wholesome. Parents should consult the content listing as some parents will be fine with their kids just under 12 watching the movie.
The Dove Take
The Tolkien movie does a great job in giving us the young storyteller and the origins of some of the most popular books in the world.