“Things aren’t beautiful because of how they sound. They’re beautiful because of what they mean.” -Edith Bratt (Lily Collins), Tolkien
“Tolkien,” a biopic on the formative years of J.R.R. Tolkien’s life from his early years orphaned after his mother dies to finding the bonds of brotherhood in boarding school to discovering his true passion studying languages at Oxford University to the horrors of World War I. The film is the weaving of his journey, his own love story, and the fantasy of “The Lord of the Rings,” all rolled up into one.
Tolkien is portrayed by Nicholas Hoult, and Edith Bratt, his love interest, is portrayed by Lily Collins. Both of their performances were heartfelt and emotive.
At the end of the film, speaking with his family, Tolkien describes the story in his head that he wants to tell:
“It’s about journeys. Adventures. Magic, of course. Treasure. And love… I suppose it’s about quests, to a certain extent. The journeys we take to prove ourselves. About courage. Fellowship. Its about fellowship.” Tolkien
The film isn’t a movie on the source material per se of the Lord of the Rings, but instead, it is like a preface, what sets the stage to Tolkien’s endeavor to writing his beloved fantasy novels.
The film was directed by Dome Karukoski. Thomas Newman composed the film’s score, an unexpected highlight, setting the mood throughout the film.
I couldn’t help but think of “Dead Poets Society” when watching the film. The brotherhood of the young boys growing into men, sharing ideas on art and writing and life, serving their country, and then returning changed, yet their bonds remaining strong through it all.
The film was rated PG-13 for its depictions of the fighting in World War I, but besides that the content was “tame,” as one would expect. However, the poignant content in the film was the story that is told about Tolkien and his own fellowship. His upbringing after his mother’s death by brothers, who really care and love him. The love story that overcomes the most difficult of circumstances speaks to loyalty and commitment and devotion and persistence that all lasting love must contain.
One of the persistent themes the young Tolkien and his brothers discuss is the pursuit of art as a career, really as a lifelong endeavor, to say something important, lasting, to make a difference. The boys come from well-to-do families with other ideas of what their sons should pursue. Despite their parents’ enjoyment and even excellence in various creative outlets such as poetry, music, painting, they think it comical that their sons waste their effort on pursuing such studies.
Is it the fear of failure that well-meaning people project on others to “play it safe” when it comes to decisions such as career choice?
Why does it seem like some people either cannot or refuse to see the talent and ability their child or loved one possesses, and thus denies directly or indirectly that gift the nurturing it needs to grow?
Creating art in any form is something hard that requires practice and persistence. It requires trying. Over and over again. Just like a tree, it grows over time. Even the artist prodigies need to work really hard to create a masterpiece.
I really enjoyed this film. It (obviously) sparked some new ideas and inspires me to keep writing, creating, and pushing towards reaching new goals and taking the next step.