This film clearly shows more of the inspiration and muses behind J.R.R. Tolkien’s writing.

Imagination served as an escape.
Washington Post

Well-directed with a close eye, the film looks handsome and offers a well-rounded look at the English class system while also providing insights into the inspirations behind Tolkien’s visions.

As a young student, J.R.R. Tolkien finds love, friendship and artistic inspiration among a group of fellow outcasts. Their brotherhood soon strengthens as Tolkien weathers the storm of a tumultuous courtship with Edith Bratt and the outbreak of World War I. These early life experiences later inspire the budding author to write the classic fantasy novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.


“Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, make a good tale, and take a good deal of telling anyway.” — J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, chapter 3.

The film does a good job of balancing the “good to spend” with the “gruesome,” setting up the various influences and inspirations working on John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, a linguistic prodigy who would end up writing some of the best-selling fantasy books of all time. Flip-flopping back and forth between Tolkien’s orphaned childhood/schooling years and a prolonged imagining of his experience during the Battle of the Somme in 1916, the biopic shows an interest in the development of Tolkien’s ideas, his passion for philology (not the most cinematic of subjects), his love of myths and legends.

USA 2019, 111 min, rated M (violence)
Directed by Dome Karukoski
Starring Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins, Derek Jacobi, Colm Meaney, Anthony Boyle, Tom Glynn-Carney & Patrick Gibson

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