Thursday, May 9, 2019

Tolkien [2019]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-II) ()  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (4+ Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review () review
AVClub (J. Hassenger) review

Tolkien [2019] (directed by Dome Karukoski, written by David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford) is a LOVELY, superbly crafted -- the writing (surprise? ;-), direction, cinematography, and acting are all honestly of the highest quality -- YOUTH ORIENTED film about the formative years of famed mid-20th century medieval fantasy (The Hobbit, LOTR) writer J.R.R. Tolkien [wikip] (played by Harry Gilby as a 12-15 year old, and Nicholas Hoult as an older teen / 20+ year-old young adult), his friends, with whom, yes, he forms "a fellowship" ;-), and his love-interest, fellow _orphan_ and later life-long wife Edith Bratt (played by Lily Collins).  Indeed, the story runs like an early 20th century set Dead Poets' Society [1989] [wikip] [IMDb], a film about a group of young boys at a New England prep school in the mid-20th century, only in the case with Tolkien, IT WAS BASICALLY TRUE.

I can not help but stress the beauty of the message of this film directed toward YOUNG PEOPLE.  I say this because Tolkien was portrayed as someone, again, an orphan from the age of about twelve, who could have easily been bitter, complaining that life gave him "a bad hand," first through losing his family when he was young, then _losing most of his friends_ in World War I. 

Instead, both he and his wife used the gifts that he was given, first from his mother (played briefly but in a lovely fashion at the beginning of the film by Laura Donnelly) an enduring love and talent for languages and , of course, storytelling, and then the gift of having had some _very good friends_ in his youth, whom AS THE SOLE SURVIVOR OF THEIR (sort of) "SECRET SOCIETY" the simultaneously quaint and (as an invention of young, teenage minds) appropriately pretentious T.C.B.S., he spent the rest of his life redeeming. 

Midway through the story, Tolkien comes across some old Gothic word for "Dying without Valor," and the four swear that they will never go down that way.  Spending the rest of his life speaking and more to the point LIVING for friends who were ripped apart anonymously by German artillery and machine-gun fire in the senseless 1916 Battle of the SommeTolkien proved that even one man can lift an entire generation to glory when otherwise they would have been taken senselessly from this world in methodical, giant-like bursts of flaming, swirling, unspeakable and mechanical horror. 

As teens, Tolkien and his friends had promised to change the world through their art / creation. Thanks to Tolkien, they still did.

Excellent story / film.

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