Movie Review: Tolkien (2019)

Plot Summary:
Tolkien recounts the story of the famous author and philologist J.R.R. Tolkien. Primary emphasis is on his relationship with three boyhood chums who become a source of inspiration and solace for the young orphan as he tries to find love and make his way in the world. 

Does it Make My List?
Having recently read Tolkien & the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth, a biography on this same subject, I was aware of the real-life story behind Tolkien's fantasy works. This particular treatment, however, was decent but not great and feels like a missed opportunity. While arguably an inspirational story of a hardworking, talented man who pursued his passions, devoted himself to his friends, and followed his heart, it wasn't as satisfying as I was hoping. 

Reasons to Watch:
    Tolkien French Poster
  1. Bright & Colorful: The cinematography and color is generally bright and interesting.  I also enjoyed how they infused everyday life with semi-fantastical imagery to represent the author's imagination and the seeds of great tales yet untold forming in the mind of the author.
  2. Friendship: This film focuses heavily on Tolkien's close friendship with a few young men and shows that, in the absence of family, friends can be a powerful influence for good in our lives.
Reasons to Pass:
  1. Don't Expect to Learn about the Origins of The Lord of the Rings: I shared a similar concern with the aforementioned biography but this movie was not what I was expecting (or what it was advertised to be in the trailer). I was anticipating a useful life sketch, interesting anecdotes, and enlightening comparisons between Tolkien's life experiences and how they inspired characters, themes and lands in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. This film contains less direct connections to those books (mostly very subtle ones) and instead focuses on his adolescence and young adulthood.
  2. Flashback Storytelling? The story felt a bit disjointed since most of the film was portrayed in a series of flashbacks. Part of me wonders if that was the best way to go about telling the story since I was mildly invested in the flashbacks but mostly disinterested in the 'present tense' part of the story. 
  3. Leads Lacking Chemistry: I know this is a personal, subjective facet of romance, but I felt like the leading couple wasn't particularly engaging. This is hard to produce, I realize, but if I were to have cast the film, I might have searched for a couple with more of that x-factor.
Tolkien is in a theater near you (at least for a little longer)
As always, I recommend checking out the Parents Guide just so that you are aware of any potentially objectionable material before deciding whether to watch it.