Dome Karukoski’s Tolkien illustrates the events that shaped the mind of the man who created some of our most beloved stories of magic and adventure. Fans of Middle Earth will love this portrayal of the life of J.R.R. Tolkien, providing insight into his childhood and formative years.
The story of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien’s life is told in a series of flashbacks that cut between Tolkien with a fever during the Battle of the Somme in World War I to growing up with his childhood friends. There is a glimpse of a childhood in an idyllic and pastoral area outside of Birmingham, an area reminiscent of the country a hobbit would love; then the movie concentrates on Tolkien’s life after he and his brother were orphaned and their guardian, Father Francis, played by Colm Meaney (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), moved them to a boarding house in the city of Birmingham. Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: Days of Future Past) portrays Tolkien as he attends King Edward’s School and forms friendships with three classmates. He meets and falls in love with a young woman who lives at the boarding house, Edith Bratt, played by Lily Collins (The Mortal Instruments).
Tolkien and his friends form a secret society with the goal of supporting one another in their artistic pursuits. They remain close as Tolkien begins his studies at Exeter College, Oxford. Tolkien’s creativity and facility with languages are showcased.
In juxtaposition with these moments of youthful fellowship, we see Tolkien during the battle, searching for his friend despite his own illness. Dragons and giants appear to the hallucinating Tolkien along with the actual horrors of the battle.
Throughout the movie there are hints of the fantasy world that Tolkien created, images born from his own life. They are shadows that exist under and within Tolkien’s everyday existence, from the magical hints of mystic creatures seen in trees during his youth, to the battle scenes that bring to mind the darkest moments of his works of fantasy. These magical images make the movie special. Thrown into his ordinary life, they suggest the enchanted worlds he created were derived from our mundane existence. It makes a person want to look for the magic and wonder that Tolkien found in the world.