Too often do biopics of such manner get the story structure wrong, becoming a focus on something other than what made the person in question a reality
Friendship is a theme features seem to love flirting around, rather than making the focus of a production. Tolkien, the story of a young J.R.R. Tolkien, the creator of Middle Earth, posed itself as a classic love story with its initial set up, but inside the feature, Tolkien is in fact a far more mixed piece about the importance of camaraderie, and how creativity almost never stems from just one source.
Moving to Birmingham unexpectedly with his mother, John Ronald (Nicholas Hoult/Harry Gilby) and his younger brother Hilary are soon orphaned, left in the care of Mrs. Faulkner (Pam Ferris) a local socialite. Befriending three fellow schoolmates, they form a society where they discuss art, poetry and writing. Driven by his desire for language and his love for a young Edith (Lily Collins/Mimi Keene), Tolkien is desperate to get to Oxford University and create his own world.
Without disrespecting the war in any way, Tolkien clearly wants to affectionately express the unity of the men who worked so hard for each other, rather than focusing on the darkest times of Tolkien’s life. Too often do biopics of such manner get the story structure wrong, becoming a focus on something other than what made the person in question a reality. Tolkien almost feels as if it were a step in the wrong direction, becoming more about those affecting the man, rather than him.
Yet this doesn’t become a major issue, with great performances littering the feature, and a wonderful relationship visible between Collins and Hoult. The love of art the characters show is highlighted beautifully, and a view of it as almost the ultimate goal, is a thoroughly engaging one. There’s a visual capturing of Tolkien’s personality within the film that works particularly well.
Perhaps Tolkien as a feature isn’t as expressive as his work would have suggested it could be, but this is a vision that didn’t want to delve into his post-war personality, without exploring his young self. There’s enough interest in the young boys society and Tolkien’s young love to supply a story, with Collins and Hoult showing wonderful emotion through their support for each other, and their desire to immerse themselves in art, however difficult that may be at times.
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