SYNOPSIS: TOLKIEN explores the formative years of the renowned author’s life as he finds friendship, courage and inspiration among a fellow group of writers and artists at school. Their brotherhood strengthens as they grow up and weather love and loss together, including Tolkien’s tumultuous courtship of his beloved Edith Bratt, until the outbreak of the First World War which threatens to tear their fellowship apart. All of these experiences would later inspire Tolkien to write his famous Middle-earth novels. 


For a biopic about the esteemed English writer, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, Tolkien unfortunately runs at a staggering 112 minutes yet fails to present a thoughtful picture of how J.R.R. Tolkien ends up being the father of modern-day fantasy literature.   

To its credit, the biopic takes its time to put together the struggles of Tolkien starting from his orphaned life as a student at King’s Edward School to meeting the woman of his life- Edith (Lily Collins). And most important of all, his friendship with his three buddies, Rob, Geoffrey and Christopher which in turn helped to shape his life and future literary works.  

Strangely the story credited to David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford didn’t really delve into how Tolkien develop his creative writing. It seems to imply he got the inspiration for Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit from the dreadful battlefields he was thrown into as a young Lieutenant during WWI or the plentiful discussions with his fellow intellectual friends or simply he was a gifted man blessed with knowledge of ancient languages.  

In fact, the entire biopic reveals virtually nothing sensational, exciting or Wikipedia has left out. Tolkien’s troubling relationship with his guardian, Father Francis Morgan (Colm Meaney) is largely ignored in the end and the same goes to one of his benefactors, Professor Joseph Wright (Derek Jacobi). Ultimately, Tolkien prides in crafting a believable love story between Tolkien and Edith as much of the runtime is devoted to that. Certainly it helps that Nicolas Hoult and Lily Collins are both solid as the two leads. 

It’s definitely a missed opportunity with the storytelling very much a letdown not because the Tolkien estate never endorsed it but the filmmakers never take much risk on the subject matter. All his religious beliefs and his friendship and rivalry with writer C.S. Lewis are conveniently left out as the movie ends abruptly with Tolkien writing The Hobbit. In the end, Finnish director Dome Karukoski’s Hollywood debut is a drama filled with rich production values, endearing cast performances but lack the spark to make the biopic glows. 


If you love the movie and desire knowledge of the making of then you shouldn’t miss the Audio Commentary with director Dome Karukoski. Just beware Karukoski takes his time to digest his thoughts. First Look is a standard 12 minutes behind-the-scenes feature that has the cast and crew discussing the movie. The disc also comes with 7 Deleted Scenes and a Gallery


Colours are rich, contrast is good and generally the earthy-looking tones suit the movie well. As this is one flick that features lots of dialogues, we can only conclude it’s clear and concise on the whole. What really stands out in the DTS-HD audio track are the handful of battle scenes which feature deafening explosions and surround sound effects.  



Review by Linus Tee



Genre: Biography/Drama
Director: Dome Karukoski
Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins, Colm Meaney, Anthony Boyle, Patrick Gibson, Tom Glynn-Carney, Craig Roberts, Laura Donnelly, Genevieve O’Reilly, Pam Ferris, Derek Jacobi 
Rating: PG (Violence)
Year Made: 2019
Official Website:


- Audio Commentary by Dome Karukoski
- Deleted Scenes
- First Look
- Gallery


Languages: English/French/Spanish
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1
Running Time: 1 hr 52 mins