You don’t need to see Tolkien to know that life is a battlefield. But to experience life through J. R. R. Tolkien’s eyes, is to understand the quest, the journey and the ascent. If your day starts by shaking the hands of dragons when you would prefer to dance with damsels; if your life lacks a sense of dreaming, Tolkien can bring it back.
Via director, Dome Karukoski’s movie we are focused primarily on the famous writer’s early adult years as the waves that broke upon his psyche and moulded the shoreline of his life. The journey as in all Tolkien’s stories begins as a walk, some may say a trek or tramp, but quickly gains pace. The young Tolkien played by Harry Gilby, dodges life’s pot holes but still maintains strength and a sense of stature. He deals with tragedy and life’s shunting while continuing to believe and imagine the overcoming for a better life.
Once we find Tolkien in the hallways of King Edward’s school, we see some key developments on the oft found theme of fellowship. Though this would also become a breaking strain in Tolkien’s later life, he finds friendship and comradery in the circle of the T.C.B.S (Tea Club, Barrovian’s Society). Meeting at the “Barrow Stores”, the school chums that included Christopher Wiseman, Robert Wilson and Geoffrey Smith, would plan plunder and the infiltration of a world by use of the arts, over what they considered the best tea in Birmingham.
The coming of age against a backdrop of parental respect and autocratic discipline were key elements for many in fellowship of Tolkien’s realm. For John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, the lack of consistent parental figures left him learning from many examples, often shown via the Catholic church. Colm Meaney fills this firm character of the Parish priest facilitating Tolkien’s mother’s wishes and developing a respected fatherly influence. His mother, like many of the quiet influencers in our lives, did sow probably the most foundational seed that would help reap a harvest for stores full of imagination.
In creating we often develop the character, the backdrop and a treasure to be desired. In the the truly imaginative, we reinvent the meaning of story by rewriting the rules. For Tolkien, we drift then delve into his play with languages. Later we circle back through his time at Oxford to see the moments in his life where genius may have been snuffed out like the candle on the altar of a life less passionate. But this was no forgotten night in the arms of Fangorn forest. Like any great story arc, the resurrection is more important than the birth.
It would be amiss to reveal the primers of the pump that delivered favoured characters and story lines, now so famous as fable, but don’t glance at your popcorn if you are a fan of the Hobbit, the trilogy or the more obscure work that are given credence. Lord of the Rings fans will salivate in the revealing, like pork crackling that comes off a steaming roast at Christmas, the meat and the wrapping are all taste worthy. In particular, the visual allusions on the battlefields of the Somme of World War One are striking, while also humbling. What we can appreciate now as manic mess for the mind that brings war veterans to a place of PTSD, was for the that time just the nightmare you try to drink away.
I close with what, I finish with why you should sit with a close and deeply loved or cared for friend and be immersed in this movie of the wonderful life of J. R. R. Tolkien. My reasons for why involve what you will receive from two hours of your day and a life that is a little less scrolled by.
If you soak while you watch, you will feel like life can be filled with so much more learning, less noise and more music. You will see boys who play, who rebel in make believe swordsmanship and debate the beauty of the out of reach waitress, a princess of their dreams. Rugby will be a battlefield and a company of men, not a colosseum of overpaid performers. Sunlight will again become something that can frame love and not a glare to be blocked on 45 minute carpark of a traffic jam as you mooch home.
Embrace the dream , open the box, put on the ring and complete the quest.