Tolkien, the Fox Searchlight biopic set for release this Friday, May 10, follows young John Ronald Reuel Tolkien through events early in his life — from school years to World War I — that would ultimately lay the foundation for his world-changing fiction.
The narrative is delivered as a series of flashbacks as soldier Tolkien makes his way through the trenches of World War I to check on the well-being of one of his dearest friends. Stunning visuals, quick humor, and enchanting fluidity keep the viewer captivated as (s)he sees the world through the eyes of one of the most prolific authors of the 20th century.
The biopic is something of a niche film, especially compared to the likes of box office competitor Avengers: Endgame, but it has all the trappings of a timeless favorite. Anyone with a passing interest in fantasy and the Lord of the Rings franchise will certainly find the movie enjoyable, but the deeper the passion of the audience for Middle-earth, language, and the life of the writer himself, the more the film will delight. It beautifully illustrates the value of community, morality, family and suffering; and our response to them — responses that can quite literally shape or destroy entire worlds.
There has been some critique that Tolkien fails to account for the profound impact of the titular character’s Catholic faith on his life and works. While the spiritual facet of J.R.R. Tolkien’s formation was certainly not emphasized, it’s hidden in the film for those who know to look for it.
For families interested in literature, language, fantasy and history, a night out to see Tolkien will be a treat. The film is appropriate for most ages (even the war scenes are mild), but it’s admittedly likely to bore those under age eight or so…families with a wide range of children should plan accordingly.
— CCL Staff Member