Review: 'Tolkien' is beautiful portrayal of 'Lord of the Rings' author

Review: 'Tolkien' is beautiful portrayal of 'Lord of the Rings' author


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MIDDLE EARTH — This summer will be known as the summer “Avengers: Endgame” took over the world. Any movie released within a four month radius of “Endgame” will likely be forgotten to time.

Unfortunately, there are going to be some really good films this year that get consumed by the unstoppable Marvel monster and I am afraid “Tolkien” will be one of them.

The film is about the life of "The Lord of the Rings" author J.R.R. Tolkien, played by Nicholas Hoult. There was not a lot of publicity around this film, and any advertising money spent towards it has long been sucked into the “Endgame” black hole.

There is a lot to like about “Tolkien” and a few things it could have done better.

The good

Its portrayal of Tolkein is intimate

This movie is a biography dedicated to telling Tolkien’s personal story from the time he was a child through the time he wrote the "Lord of the Rings" stories.

The film gives us a wonderful view into the life of the man who gave birth to the fantasy genre of writing. For so many people this story will hold a lot of interest as it lays out the difficulties Tolkien faced throughout his life. It will also draw comparisons between his day-to-day life and what he ultimately included in his fantastic stories.

Though Tolkien was keen to never draw any direct connections himself, it can’t be denied that there is a lot of the man in his work. The film also explores the interpersonal relationships of Tolkien and those he loved most, telling a beautiful story of fellowship and love.

The love story is compelling

At its heart, “Tolkien” is a love story between J.R.R. and his wife Edith (Lily Collins), as well as his friends.

The most compelling moments of the film revolve around Tolkien and Edith's relationship from the time they met until the story ends later in their lives. It seems as if every beautiful scene in the film is set up to further the love affair they shared throughout this movie.

There may be a fair amount of artistic liberty as to the details of their lives since not a lot is known, but director Dome Karukoski uses every bit of what he has to paint a breathtaking romantic picture.

It's beautiful

I always watch a film for more than just the story. I watch films for the little details, and I love the small things that tell the bigger story. The film succeeds in those details and is beautifully shot. There are so many scenes where set design and cinematography combine to take my breath away.

The acting is very good

The acting in this film is very good, but not mind blowing. Hoult and Collins do an excellent job portraying J.R.R. and Edith Tolkien, but their performances were not necessarily enough to put the film over the top.

What was impressive to me but not apparent until after the film was the amount of work I learned went into the preparation of the actors for their roles — Collins in particular. After the film screening, there was a short segment where Steven Colbert interviewed the director and actors about the making of the film.

In the interview it is revealed that Collins prepared for the role based only on a very small amount of known information about Edith Tolkien. Collins gathered information where she could, but the rest she had to deduce based on J.R.R.’s accounts of his wife and how he incorporated her into his writing.

How accurately portrayed cannot be known, but she was convincing in the role.

The bad

The pacing is slow

This movie was not designed to move quickly. It spends a lot of time looking beautiful and you will need some time to take it all in, like watching the sunset.

There were times when I thought the filmmakers could have picked up the pace or removed a couple unnecessary scenes, but in the end, they didn’t distract from the film. Scenes were just drawn out longer than they should have been.


There are a lot of films this summer begging you for every dollar you have to spend. If you are a fan of Tolkien or beautifully shot films, take a break and see this movie.

You may not walk away with the adrenaline buzz you can get from other films, but you will have a greater appreciation for the subtleties of filmmaking. Maybe you will learn something you didn't know about one of the great storytellers of our time.

A note about content

The film is rated PG-13, primarily for violent scenes depicting battles during WWI. There is a lot of blood and death shown in one scene. There are few mild swear words scattered throughout the film, but far less language than in other PG-13 movies playing now.

"Tolkien" is rated PG-13 for some sequences of war violence.

Grant Olsen

About the Author: David Clyde

David comes from a family of "movie people" of which there are actors, screenwriters, a set designer, a director and yes, a couple of movie reviewers. When David isn't busy living in the real world, he is busy living in someone else's version of it on a movie screen. David is a regular on the KSL Popcorn Report podcast. Contact him at and on Twitter at @DC_Reviews.

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Dave Clyde comes from a family of "movie people" of which there are actors, screenwriters, a set designer, a director and yes, a couple of movie reviewers. When Dave isn't busy living in the real world, he is busy living in someone else's version of it on a movie screen.


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