I officially love this movie. And you will only hear gushing from this review because of it. And mind you this doesn’t just come from a base of bias that the director and 15 people working on this movie were Finnish. I genuinely adore and love this movie.
Summary – Full:
Starting during World War I Tolkien is battling fever as he tries to get to his friend Geoffrey who is at the front. In between the journey there we see his childhood, his teenage years and time before the war. How Edith Bratt came in to his life and his interest in mythology and tales of knight and dragons from an early age as well as his care under Father Francis Morgan and life at Oxford. The fellowship between his friends Geoffrey Bache Smith, Robert Q. Gilson and Christopher Wiseman during those years are only one of the things that inspired him, but were during those times the most important thing in his life as well.
I already said this in my Non Spoiler review, but this movie beautiful. The shots from long takes to the camera lingering in the beauty of the trees – and Tolkien loved trees – then there’s the just period drama beauty of all the evocative realness of the places we see, the shadows that turn in to monsters, the fire that becomes one coming from dragons, the dance of Edith that is alike to Luthien’s and from his wallpaper at home in the end where the light flickers. Everything is imbued in a sense of magic in the real world, that only few can see and it’s clear Tolkien is one creative mind who sees it. It truly feels like seeing the world though his eyes, even while under the Trench Fever that turns out to be his experience at war. Some might call it cheap, but I like it and otherwise we wouldn’t have the imagery of what it was like being in such conditions during the war with a fever – and I got this confirmation from the director when they held the Q & A after the early screening – that Trench Fever really does bring on hallucinations.
The catholic background was subtly done, which from what I gathered from the internet after the movie was of the most concern and what people most wanted to see. It was in the form of Colm Meaney as Father Francis Morgan and I understood it there. Honestly, because of my lack of knowledge on Tolkien I was thankful for the subtlety of the religious angle because I honestly think a choir of angels would have been ham fisted which isn’t this movie’s aim nor how its story works. Also there was a cross in the battlefield if that wasn’t blatant enough!
Though if you think that the creators ignored it then I can say to you that is not so, from the Q & A they did after the preview Dome Karukoski said that they filmed two scenes of Tolkien and Father Francis Morgan doing jobs around the church but they became deleted scenes. Buy the DVD/Blue-Ray for the scenes, apparently they’ll be there. So if you are angry it didn’t meet your expectations and it wasn’t ham fisted in to you then no need to worry, you will see them, but please understand that the story the film wants to tell is still wonderfully written and please don’t attack the creators of this film or the actors because of the fact that Tolkien was catholic and it wasn’t shown the way you liked it to be seen. Please be respectful.
And now back to praising this film! I’ll talk about the T.C.B.S. and wonderful young actors whom I couldn’t do justice in my Non Spoiler review since it seemed quite Spoiler filled. Harry Gilby as young Tolkien bares a striking resemblance to Nicholas Hoult and from the interviews I looked afterwards it seems that Karukoski had the young actors make their real-life people with the elder ones. And such teamwork pulls off with all the other boys as well; from Adam Bregman as young Geoffrey Smith, Albie Marber as young Robert Q. Gilson and Ty Tennant as young Christopher Wiseman. Making the seamless slip from the young actors to the old.
Speaking of the old actors they are as wonderfully filled with energy and character, behaving as young people which makes them relatable. Anthony Boyle as Geoffrey Bache Smith works in subtleties and has a melancholy air about him which pulls the eye towards him. Patrick Gibson as Robert Q. Gilson was one I had seen before in The White Princess (2017 TV-series) and I am happy he got a good role like the artistic Robert Q. Gilson. Tom Glynn-Carney as Christopher Wiseman is just full of energy with his charm and personality that is a force in itself. The chemistry between all the boys and men is absolutely perfect and it is just a joy to watch and when the war comes the inevitable doom to come breaks your heart as it breaks the fellowship.
Derek Jacobi as Professor Joseph Wright is wonderfully witty and sharp minded and it was fun to hear him pronounce Finnish words. The conversations between him and Hoult are filled with battling intellects and mutual respect. The cast is really perfect in every way and I would not replace any of them.
So go watch this film! Heck I think I will buy the DVD when it comes and rewatch it many times when it comes in to streaming (considering Finland’s Netflix that will be two years in the coming). And I think I will always have a soft spot for this no matter what critics say, not just because it was the first film I saw in a full on professional weeks before kind of preview screening, but because as a writer (and hopeful author someday) it gives hope to others to achieve the dream of writing something that we love will be cherished for the care put in to it, just like anything from Middle-Earth was Tolkien’s.
Thank you for reading!
2 thoughts on “Tolkien (2019) – SPOILERS – One Man Making a World of Words”
I loved the movie as well and only read your review with spoilers after seeing it. One question: you didn’t comment the performance of Lily Collins in this review. Is there a special reason for that?
No reason. I suppose I was so concentrated on the other actors and the visuals that it kind of went unnoticed for me in all that. I had seen her in other movies so already knew of her talent while the others were new to me so I thought perhaps better to concentrate on them as they might be the unknown to others. So yeah, it was a mistake on my part, but I couldn’t find myself to add much more than praise on her performance and then…I just forgot to put it in.
But on her performance here she really does capture this rebellious spirit, the determination and just warmth that no doubt appealed to Tolkien in the movie. I am still new to reviewing, but I will get better. I suppose it was just a moment of forgetfulness in the moment of writing. There wasn’t much else to say for the reasons I have already said. She was in the movie the ‘love interest’ so her work, thought critical, wasn’t something that I found I could not write extensively about when it came to this movie.