‘Tolkien’ (M) *** and a half
FINNISH director Dome Karukoski’s first English-language film is an affectionate homage to the man who gave hobbits to the world’s readers and moviegoers.
The screenplay by David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford follows JRR Tolkien from childhood under the guardianship of a Catholic priest, to Oxford and the friendships that he made there, action at the Somme in the Lancashire Fusiliers during World War I, his courtship of Edith in Oxford days and marriage in 1916 and publication of “The Hobbit” in 1937.
Karukoski’s film delivers a gently judged combination of those elements. If it has a shortcoming, it is that the high points of its central character, earnestly played by Nicholas Hoult, flow across the screen with an evenness varied by a brief battlefield sequence filmed with a real sense of its horror at what looks like a considerable expense.
As Edith, Lily Collins provides the narrative with deft support, setting the scene for how it must have been during a 55-year marriage and four children. Derek Jacobi plays Professor Wright, giving gentle impetus to Tolkien’s writing development and Colm Meaney is Father Francis, his mentor in loco parentis after his widowed mother died when he was 12.
The film’s only reference to “The Fellowship of the Ring” is a brief sequence implying the writing of that book’s opening sentence in a handsome hand using what is now a forgotten writing tool – a steel-nib pen dipped into an inkwell. Tolkien’s estate is estimated to have been in the order of ₤500 million. From little things, big things grow.
“Tolkien” pleased me but I didn’t get excited by any part of it.
At Dendy, Palace Electric and Capitol 6