Tolkien (2019) – Ace Mini-Review

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you probably know that I’m a big J. R. R. Tolkien fan. So of course I had to see this movie. And of course I had to review it.

Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins
Written by: David Gleeson, Stephen Beresford
Directed by: Dome Karukoski
U.S.A., 2019

How good is this movie?

In general, I suspect it’s best to judge biopics as independent works of art rather than on their historical accuracy. On that level, at least, Tolkien works as a beautifully-filmed story about a young dreamer with an active imagination and a knack for language. The film almost entirely avoids direct references to Tolkien’s writing and is mostly better for it, focusing instead on the stories, relationships, and experiences that helped to inspire that writing. There are plenty of oblique references, for those who know what to look for, but the film doesn’t bash you over the head with them. Most impressive is the amount of attention devoted to linguistics. You have to respect a movie where the main character shouts drunkenly in a made-up language, talks at length about the beauty of “cellar door”, and corrects his friends’ pronunciation of “Helheimr”. I did find some moments a bit over-the-top, notably Ronald’s monstrous visions during battle. The ending is also rather clumsy in its attempt to connect the young man we have gotten to know to the iconic author. Over all, though, it’s a much better movie than I was expecting.

How ace is this movie?

A big part of the movie is the courtship of Ronald and his future wife Edith. However, this isn’t just a romantic love story. As Brenton Dickieson puts it:

Tolkien … tells an absorbing story of three loves in Tolkien’s life: his close friends in the artistic collective, the T.C.B.S.; his illicit romance with Edith Bratt; and his love of language and myth that becomes both the foundation and heart of his mythology.

All three of these loves are granted pretty much equal weight in the story. The T.C.B.S. become a kind of surrogate family to the orphaned Ronald, and his grief over their loss continues to affect him decades later. And, as mentioned, linguistics also plays a big role in his journey.

3 Stars; 3 Aces

Happy Birthday to my favourite author!

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