TOLKIEN Review - Magnificent, Magical, Inspiring

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TOLKIEN, from Fox Searchlight Films, presents the magical prequel to perhaps the greatest trilogies in British Literature introducing the world to J.R.R. Tolkien and the moments, lives, loves that shaped him and took shape in his imagination.

Directed by Dome Karukoski, TOLKIEN stars Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins, Patrick Gibson, Anthony Boyle, Tom Glynn-Carney, Harry Gilby, Adam Bregman, Albie Marber, Ty Tennant, Mini Keene, Laura Donnelly, Pam Ferris, Aaron Neil, David Bromley and Colm Meaney with Derek Jacobi. David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford are credited with writing.


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The film opens with a pan of a deeply scared battlefield, the remnants are real and vivid and then we are transported to the beginning in the English countryside, rolling green hills dotted with patches of woods, cottages and stones fences and the sound of laughter and the local boys are charging in conquest capturing the flag of the victory.

Stopping, a young Tolkien, played by Harry Gilby, stars at his home and sees they have visitors. Now the man of the house, it is his to investigate.

Finding Father Francis, played by Colm Meaney, helping his mother, Mabel, played by Laura Donnelly, as he and his brother, Hilary, played by Guillermo Bedward, are moving to the city. As she explains, with their father gone, she is dependent on the generosity of the church and Father Francis has found them a home in Birmingham.

As they settle in, she explains to them when she was growing up every story she ever read began with and "they are in impecunious circumstances" and for the characters they only had two ways out. Finding treasure and marrying well.

The boys quickly decided marrying well was out so in order to find treasure they needed to expand the definition of treasure. Mabel, blessed with intellect and an imagination, and the ability to read which, for women, in those days put her in a higher class.


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Soon she, with the skills of a brilliant actress, reading stories to her sons, opening their minds to the world of imagination, taking them from the dull trapping of their existences to a world of treasure.

One day as they were returning from school, they causally walked past their mother sitting by the fire, when J.R.R. paused, he touched her on the shoulder and her arm dropped and life again changed.

They were again at the mercy of Father Francis, now as orphans. He was a good man who took his duties seriously and recognized Tolkien's brilliant mind. They were placed in a well-established home of a wealthy church benefactor, played by Pam Ferris. Also living in the home Edith Bratt, a pianist, who essentially played for her room and board.

Soon Tolkien was sent to a prestigious boy academy where the elite of Britain sent their sons to study and become contributing members of society. It would be here that he would meet three comrades, after a rough beginning, a bond was formed.

The four, Tolkien, poet Geoffrey Smith, composer Christopher Wiseman and painter Robert R.Q. Gilson would, after several afternoon tea sessions decide to create a brotherhood, a fellowship, a society dedicated to charging the world through the power of art.

As the four progress into adults, the loyalty, commitment, and allegiance they have to each other and to bettering society becomes even more cemented.

The film is brilliant. And I am drawn to the loss, the legacy of loss which plays so strongly as war, which when the declaration is given it is seen as a jubilant moment, with visions of a triumphant return in the moments of celebration.

The older man, Professor Wright, here played by Derek Jacobi, who have lived through wars and rumors of war understand the moment of celebration in the strength of a nation who has yet to be tested, or to see the battlefield or feel the determination of the enemy or understand simply wars kill is misguided. Death, even the possibility, for youth is difficult to fathom.


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War kills, it destroys legacies, it steals lineages, the notes which would have been composed by Christopher, the poetry which would have been written by Geoffrey, the ideas, bold and brash, like the brush strokes of Robert, that would have encouraged the brothers into their "Helheim" moments forever gone.

While Geoffrey and Robert were killed in the Battle of Somme, in 1916, forever silencing their brilliance. The war, images from the battle field that men should not be forced to look upon, the destruction of life, the enemy's determination tormented and silenced Christopher's brilliant mind.

The legacy of loss. Most don't understand the unknown loss that one life causes. The camera on Tolkien pulls back and we see a funnel of bodies, distorted, gathered around a pool of blood. War drained from each of them the lifeblood of tomorrows. Unknown tomorrows. Of life's, loves, discoveries, imprints on society for better or worse, to bring mankind awareness or and the possibility of an even greater evil.


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The film is excellent. It has fantastical moments, fantasy, comradeship, heartache and heartbreak. Well-acted, truthful performances, realistic special effects, TOLKIEN resonates. It is a film that causes deeper thought, and rightly so I suppose as it is the origins of one of the greatest trilogies in British literature. It was full of wonder, awe and inspiration.

In good time and sorrowful, jubilation and uncertainty the band of brothers stood. And even now, presently, Tolkien and his friends, have a permanent place in his history.

TOLKIEN opens Friday, May 10, 2019. See it.

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