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Tolkien: A Life of Love, Courage, and Fellowship

Tolkien: A Life of Love, Courage, and Fellowship (Fox Searchlight Pictures/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, 2019).

I was skeptical. I fully expected the film to about the inspiration behind The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and these were represented, but not the focus. If you are familiar with his works, then you will easily find glimpses here and there, but if you have never picked up a Tolkien title, the experience is still powerful.

I am no longer skeptical. The film is about the man, which includes his imagination, but centers on who J. R. R. Tolkien was, the friends that influenced his early years before WWI, his abiding love for Edith Bratt, and his passion for words: wonderful, meaningful, inspiring words. The sound of them, the depth of them, their story.

And there’s the rub. If you are fond of the English language, of literature, Tolkien the film will move you. And I am pleased to say, there are no verbal vulgarities (though some brief nude art appears).

Some that love his writings have written concerns about how Tolkien’s Catholic faith is not on display in the film. Colm Meaney plays Father Frances in the film, he was a man of considerable influence on Tolkien’s life and was his legal guardian after the death of his parents. There is no question that Tolkien’s faith was well established and vocalized in his latter years, he was even instrumental in helping C. S. Lewis come to faith. However, it may not have been as important when he was of college age and younger—the predominant period covered in the film.

If the film had any fault, the soundtrack was highly synthesized and ignorable.

The characters are believable with some fine teen actors as well as established thespians like Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins, the previously mentioned Colm Meaney, and Sir Derek Jacobi. This is Disney’s first release of a Fox film since the merger, which is a tad ironic, as Tolkien allegedly despised Walt Disney’s butchery of classic literature.

To what degree the film is historically accurate, I do not know nor care. If you have considered going—go soon. It has limited cinematic release and won’t be in theaters for long.

Reviewed by Kevin Williams


Editor’s update: The DVD was released on August 6, 2019.

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Category: Living the Faith, Spring 2019

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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