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MOVIE REVIEW

Tolkien

also known as “Ponas Tolkinas,” «Толкин»
MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for some sequences of war violence.
Better than Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
• Adults • Young-Adults • Teens
Genre:
Biography Drama
Length:
1 hr. 52 min.
Year of Release:
2019
USA Release:
May 10, 2019 (wide—1,495 theaters)
DVD: August 6, 2019
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures, a sister company of 20th Century Fox, a division of The Walt Disney Company click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures, a sister company of 20th Century Fox, a division of The Walt Disney Company Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures, a sister company of 20th Century Fox, a division of The Walt Disney Company Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures, a sister company of 20th Century Fox, a division of The Walt Disney Company Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures, a sister company of 20th Century Fox, a division of The Walt Disney Company Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures, a sister company of 20th Century Fox, a division of The Walt Disney Company
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures, a sister company of 20th Century Fox, a division of The Walt Disney Company
Who was J.R.R. Tolkien?

Birth name: John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (born 1892 in South Africa)

He was an orphan —father died when Tolkien was 4, and mother at 12.

Tolkien was a devout Roman Catholic.

He was raised by a Catholic priest, Father Francis Morgan.

He was married for 50 years to Edith Mary Bratt (also an orphan); they had 4 children.

Tolkien’s oldest son became Catholic priest.

Protestant C.S. Lewis and Tolkien were once close friends, having met as professors at Oxford before WWII and started a literary group called The Inklings. Later, Lewis dedicated his book, The Screwtape Letters, to Tolkien.

Tolkien died in 1973 at age 81 and is buried in the Catholic Cemetery at Oxford.

Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures, a sister company of 20th Century Fox, a division of The Walt Disney Company

Wanting to improve the world through one’s artistic abilities

World War I

What is the Biblical perspective on war? Answer

War in the Bible

Armies in the Bible

Friendship

Loss of friends

What is DEATH? and WHY does it exist? Answer in the Bible

What is ETERNAL LIFE? Answer

What is ETERNAL DEATH? Answer

Issue of pain and suffering

Did God make the world the way it is now? What kind of world would you create? Answer

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

Does God feel our pain? Answer

ORIGIN OF BAD THINGSWhy are they in our world? Answer

Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures, a sister company of 20th Century Fox, a division of The Walt Disney Company Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures, a sister company of 20th Century Fox, a division of The Walt Disney Company Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures, a sister company of 20th Century Fox, a division of The Walt Disney Company
Featuring: Nicholas HoultJ.R.R. Tolkien
Lily CollinsEdith Bratt
Patrick GibsonRobert Q. Gilson
Pam FerrisMrs. Faulkner
Colm MeaneyFather Francis Morgan
Tom Glynn-CarneyChristopher Wiseman
Derek JacobiProfessor Wright
Laura DonnellyMabel Tolkien
Genevieve O'ReillyMrs. Smith
Adam Bregman … Geoffrey Bache Smith
Harry Gilby … Young J.R.R Tolkien
See all »
Director: Dome Karukoski (a Finnish filmmaker)
Producer: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Chernin Entertainment
See all »
Distributor: Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures. Trademark logo.
Fox Searchlight Pictures, a sister company of 20th Century Fox, a division of The Walt Disney Company

“A life of love, courage and fellowship.”

“Tolkien.” The name conjures many things to mind. Elves, Hobbits, Dwarves, and “one ring to rule them all.” Before Tolkien was the greatest fantasy writer of all time, he found a fellowship of his own.

J.R.R. Tolkien, or “Ronald” (Nicholas Hoult) to his friends, struggles through the trenches in WWI, in search of his best friend, Geoffrey Smith (Adam Bregman). As he faces the terrible death toll of the Somme, he flashes back to his childhood.

Uprooted from all he knows and moved into the city after his father’s death, young “Ronald” Tolkien (Harry Gilby) takes comfort in daydreaming and sketching fantastical creatures from his imagination. His mother’s stirring stories of dragons and fair knights fuel his inspiration to create entire languages. Then, he comes home one day to find his mother has also died.

His priest, Father Francis (Colm Meaney) moves him into a boardinghouse where a charming young pianist, Edith (Mimi Keene) lives, and finds him a good school to attend. Tolkien shows a natural aptitude for learning, and through a run-in on the rugby field with the headmaster’s son, soon finds himself in a small group of friends.

Geoffrey Smith (Anthony Boyle) dreams of becoming a poet. Robert Gilson (Albie Marber) works hard to maintain high grades, but wants to paint. Christopher Wiseman (Ty Tennant) is an aspiring musician and composer. The four boys soon form a friendship and agree to “change the world through their art.”

This friendship lasts over the years. Now aspiring to college, Tolkien dreams of attending Oxford. His romance with Edith Bratt (Lily Collins) sustains him, but a difficult struggle lies ahead… tuition he cannot pay, a devastating world war, and stories that just won’t leave him alone…

“Tolkien” is a respectful, romantic, and deep tribute to a man who loved words so much that he created entire languages for his fictional races to speak. As a character, he comes across as an emotional, in love man who also had an incredible gift for languages. The script has a genuine love for his world, and teems with references to his work—a faithful man in the trenches called Sam, eagles in flight on the walls of his bedroom, shadows of Ents late in his room at night, a remark that “a story about a magic ring should not take six hours to tell,” Nazgul and dragons on the battlefield, even a glimpse of Sauron. Tolkien makes notes from ancient books that speak of “Fili, Kili, and Gandalf.”

This is not a movie for the faint of heart, because it touches on things like loss (both he and Edith are orphans, and not all his friends survive the war), the devastating horrors of the battlefield (Tolkien endures fire in the trenches, soldiers being gassed by the enemy, stumbling through body-strewn trenches, holes, and fields), and PTSD (he says not all men came back from the war “unchanged”).

It has many sad scenes, but also joyful ones—flashes of genuine humor and sweetness, especially in his tender relationship with his future wife.

The film flashes back and forth between the battlefield and earlier scenes in his life, but it never becomes too erratic or distracting, and allows the audience “breaks” from the horrors of war. It does not touch on his faith (his priest objects to his love of Edith because “She’s not even Catholic!” but later admits Tolkien chose well, because “she never left your side, not once”), but it carries all the themes of his books—primarily, that of “friendship.” He and his friends champion one another, push each other to courage, bolster each other in failure, and help each other.

Content-wise, other than the aforementioned battle scenes (which show a lot of bodies, men being shot, blown through the air, and stabbed), there’s not much problematic material. One character refers to buxom women; he shows his friends two paintings he made of bare-breasted women (he says he wishes he could find live models). The father chastises Tolkien for coming out of Edith’s room late one night, but Tolkien insists (truthfully) they were “just talking.” Some could interpret Geoffrey’s tenderness and affection toward Tolkien as unrequited love, but I didn’t see it that way. Tolkien says of all his friends, “Geoffrey most embodied what it is to love.”

There’s no profane language, although the boys use “Hell” a few times, as a rallying cry, centered on Tolkien’s studies of the underworld.

The movie is beautifully cast and written, has a gorgeous original score (that suggests “The Lord of the Rings”), and lovely costumes. I walked out for the first time understanding the great author who “dabbled” in Middle-Earth his entire life. It made me like him as a human being, in giving me tremendous empathy for his losses, and it reminded me of the preciousness of life. Tolkien saw and felt the devastation of war and translated his feelings into a beautiful book series that has inspired generations of fans.

  • Violence: Heavy
  • Sex: Moderate— • bare female breasts in small paintings • sexual comments • kisses
  • Nudity: Mild to Moderate— above mentioned paintings
  • Profane language: Mild— • G*d (1) • For G*d’s sakes (1) • Hell (1)
  • Vulgar/Crude language: Minor— • a**
  • Occult: Minor
Editor’s Note: It is not known how the heirs of JRR Tolkien feel about this film. All we know is that they did not authorize or endorse it, nor were they involved in it in any way.

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—This movie may not get any hype, but it’s a beautifully crafted and poignant film. I was hoping it would delve into Tolkien’s faith, but instead it was more of an artistic “back story” of some of the circumstances in his life that both devastated and inspired him. I still enjoyed it thoroughly. Recommended for those who like historical dramas (especially British) or are fans of Tolkien/The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Mindy, age 43 (USA)
Positive—It’s a nice biography of the early life of a literary legend. It talks about his early life and influences. The actors are great. Morally it’s very clean. No sex. Some violence and scariness regarding the horrors of WWI. It mentions he is Catholic, but it doesn’t mention the fact that he was a devout, and it greatly influenced his writing. That’s the only thing I wish was included. I also liked he came back from the WWI with ideas of right and wrong intact. It’s refresh change to the lost generation writers who were traumatized by the war and believed in nothing. I would recommend it all fans of Tolkien, however even if you are not familiar with his work you will enjoy it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
Keith Chandler, age 40 (USA)
Positive—This movie had excellent acting with stand-out performances by Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins and Anthony Boyle. I enjoyed it, but, while watching it, I wondered at its accuracy. It turns out it’s mostly accurate, but some of the in-between things are changed. The things that bothered me were the excessive drinking at times and that his devout faith was left out of the story. They did mention that he was Catholic and showed how a Catholic priest was his guardian after his mother died. However, a personal faith, which apparently JR Tolkien had and that influenced his writings was non-existent. Instead they concentrated on his friendships with the 3 other boys in their society, called the T. C. B. S., and how they and Edith, his future wife, influenced his writings.

However, it was very clean overall and there was no pre-maritial sex. Tolkien did mention that he didn’t want to be celibate for his whole life, but this was mentioned in the context of marriage. Negatives were that the boys looked at nude pictures and hid them, although JR did not seem to be involved, and very mild swearing. Some of the war scenes were intense and quite sad, but would not be bad for most adults.

Overall I really enjoyed this film and the actors were so believable in the way they portrayed the characters. I missed some of the dialogue because of their accents, and so hopefully I can see it again. As many of you like me are wondering this… no C.S. Lewis does not appear in this story, as I think they met when they were both professors, and this is about his earlier life. It’s a good clean movie, overall, and I’d recommend it for sure.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Kathy Pj, age 58 (Canada)
Negative
…whitewashed of Christianity… Even though the author of one of the 20th century’s most beloved pieces of literature was a devoutly Christian Catholic, whose faith animated a work that spawned a multi-billion-dollar franchise in the 21st century, the movie depicting his life seems oddly unaware of this fact…
Paul Bois, The Daily Wire
Comments from young people
Positive—I’ve seen this movie twice now, and I must say it is a wonderful film. It’s not certainly not perfect, but it’s flaws are few and far between. The production quality is great, and the acting is very memorable, in my opinion. I agree with the reviewer, Geoffrey never came across as gay to me. He was a close and caring friend, like friends should be.

The story is inspiring and full of beauty and friendship. Some have taken issue of his faith not being clear in the movie. I disagree. In fact, I believe his faith was incredibly clear in the film. True, he never talked about Jesus, and we never see him in church, but I believe his faith was clearly portrayed, hear me out. First of all, the film makes it clear he is Catholic. Throughout the entire film we see him living out his faith. Friendship, love, courage. The movie’s portrayal of his faith is brilliant. It showed him living it out rather than preaching sermons, like many faith-based films will do.

There was no objectionable content in the film, and the war scenes were not gory, except for large pools of blood on the ground. I would say the movie is suitable for all ages, though the war scenes may be too intense for sensitive young children.

In the end this a wonderful and inspiring film about love, courage, and… Fellowship.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Ethan Curtis, age 17 (USA)
Comments from non-viewers
Neutral—I would urge people not to see this movie. Not because of what may/may not be in it. But because Tolkien’s children said they never authorized this movie to be made about his life. Tolkien said he never wanted a movie about himself, because that wasn’t why he made the books. It was about the story in and behind the books. That and the accuracy of the movie is not 100% accurate (as stated since the family did not approve or have anything to do with it).
Matt S, age 37 (USA)

PLEASE share your observations and insights to be posted here.

Secular Movie Critics
…The performances are wonderful, especially Hoult and Collins, who exude a charming chemistry, and fans of both the books and the films will find pleasure in this look at the early life of the man…
Josh Kupecki, The Austin Chronicle
…Director Dome Karukoski guides the actors well with a perfectly British script containing dry, witty humor. However, the movie leaves one longing for a little more. …
Samantha Incorvaia, Arizona Republic
…a picturesque, amber-soaked balm for armchair Anglophiles: the manners and mores, the crisp witticisms and stirring, stiff-upper-lip sentiments. These pleasures aren’t negligible. But neither are they a substitute for a genuinely cinematic window into a genius’ mind. …
Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times
…Handsomely made in the customarily fastidious style of most period biographical dramas, “Tolkien” is strongly served by Hoult…
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
…Tolkien gives us the passing of a vanished England and the loss of a generation but not quite enough about what was won, by him for us, nor the mystery of how he won it. …
Ty Burr, The Boston Globe
…‘Tolkien’ distorts and flattens J.R.R. Tolkien’s incredible life story… Why bother with people from another time if we have to always reduce them to boring, conventional people of our own times?…
Titus Techera, American Cinema Foundation
…unravels with the tempo of a funeral dirge…
Rex Reed, The New York Observer
…The movie is a capable and attractive enough biopic, if also less than riveting cinema…
Michael O’Sullivan, The Washington Post