He’s sold more than 250 million books in over 56 languages and is the genius at the heart of cinema’s most beloved fantasy franchise. Countries from Holland to Canada have streets named after him. So it’s quietly remarkable that Dome Karukoski’s Tolkien (pronounced ‘Tolkeen’, as we are told several times) should be the first biopic of J.R.R.
Young Ronald (Harry Gilby) is first shown playing with swords during his idyllic childhood in Sarehole village. After a bumpy start at school, Ronald finds himself with three best friends, Christopher Wiseman (Ty Tennant), Robert Gilson (Albie Marber) and Geoffrey Bache Smith (Adam Bregman). They gather at Barrows after school and talk about their artistic pursuits, calling themselves the T.C.B.S. (Tea Club, Barrovian Society). This is the formation of Tolkien's cherished "fellowship,". The young actors create a believable bond, as do the group of older actors who portray them once they reach college (Nicholas Hoult, with intense blue eyes and sharp cheekbones, as Tolkien, Anthony Boyle as Geoffrey, Tom Glynn-Carney as Christopher, and Patrick Gibson as Robert).
The film pays homage to the Middle Earth facts as well as Tolkien, the genius who made it come alive. When Nicholas Hoult's Tolkien says he's going to take his opera-loving future wife to hear Wagner's Ring Cycle, one of his pals casually remarks, "it shouldn't take six hours to tell a story about a ring." Those who advocate for Tolkien's true genius will love this film.