Released in theaters
- May, 2019
- 47% – Rotten Tomatoes Critics
- 86% – Rotten Tomatoes Movie Goers
- 85% – Roger Koehler
- Nicolas Hoult
- Lily Collins
- Colm Meaney
- Derek Jacobi
- Dome Karukowski. Finnish director whose first full-length movie appears to have been made in 2009. He does not appear to have as yet been involved in any U.S. films.
Right up front, I don’t believe that you have to be a fan of the Lord of the Rings to enjoy this movie. You don’t even need to particularly enjoy science fantasy or fiction. This is quite simply a very British (which is to say understated), and nicely constructed movie that recounts the author’s early life and formative years.
It is well acted in most part by actors and actresses who you may likely have never seen before, with a few notable character actor exceptions who I will mention later in this review.
If Wikipedia is to be believed …
(And really, why wouldn’t it? After all, if you can’t believe everything you read on the internet, then what can you believe in? )
then this story of Tolkien’s early life is quite accurate. I am sure that much of the scenes in the movie of Tolkien’s experiences during the battles of WWI are to a great extent manufactured. But they definitely give you many ideas of how his life, and his imagination was shaped by his war experience.
While Tolkien himself resisted any idea that the Lord of the Rings was some sort of allegory of Europe during the war years, it is obvious that the period greatly affected him and strongly influenced the fantasy world that he created. That is quite ably demonstrated during this movie.
After both his parents died early in life, Tolkien was raised as an orphan along with his brother in Birmingham, England. In spite of his lack of money, he was befriended by a group of other boys from an elite preparatory school. Those boys formed a life long bond.
The movie also details the love story between Tolkien and his fellow orphan and eventual wife of 55 years – Edith Bratt. While undoubtedly romanticized more than a bit in the movie, their relationship is believable and well told.
While living in England during late 2001 and 2002, one of my side trips took me to Birmingham where I of course looked up sites from Tolkien’s childhood. Those included the Eagle & Child pub where he used to meet with his fellow Inklings – among whom was fellow fantasy author C.S. Lewis. A picture of Tolkien hangs on the wall inside the Eagle & Child.
Sarehole Mill, which is mentioned in the movie, was a place where Tolkien played as a child and is thought to have perhaps planted the seeds of Hobbiton and Middle Earth in Tolkien’s mind.
Both Deborah and I enjoyed this movie very much. It should be noted that she is most certainly not the type of Lord of the Rings devotee that I am.
We both highly recommend it.
About the actors …
- Although I was not at all familiar with him before this movie, this English actor has been quite active in both television and movies since 1996. Most notably, particularly for fans of science fiction and fantasy, he has appeared in a number of “X-Men” movies as “The Beast”.
- Perhaps most notably, Lily is the daughter of rocker Phil Collins. Born in England, but raised in Los Angeles, she has been active mostly in movies since 2009. From IMDB, the only thing I might have recognized her in was most likely as a bit part in “The Blind Side”.
- Fans of Star Trek will most definitely recognize Irish actor Colm Meaney from his recurring role as Chief Miles O’Brien in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. He also appeared briefly in the pilot for Star Trek: The Next Generation which led to his role on Deep Space Nine. He has been extremely active primarily in TV series and made for TV movies since 1978.
- I immediately recognized classical British actor Derek Jacobi from his role as one of the Roman Senators – Gracchus in Ridley Scott’s epic movie “Gladiator”, starring Russell Crowe. Jacobi has been active in both TV and movies since 1961.