[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A biopic of the early life of J. R. R. Tolkien. Spoiler: it ends with J. R. R. penning (literally penning) the first line of a certain book: "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit."

But to get there was quite a journey. And I knew next to nothing about Tolkien's life, so it was pretty revelatory. As the movie begins, Daddy Tolkien is already dead. And Mom is on her way out herself. J. R. R. and his brother are remanded to the care of the local priest (Chief O'Brien himself, Colm Meaney). Who in turn places them in a home for orphans, where he J. R. R. meets (spoiler) the future Mrs. Tolkien. He also enrolls them in a good local school, where J. R. R. makes some lifelong friends, each with his own special artistic talent. (Tolkien himself has a natural way with languages, and that is the source of some fun scenes.)

Ah, but "lifelong" isn't that long for some in that era. Because World War I happens, and … well, it ain't pretty. The movie makes a powerful cinematographic argument that Tolkien's depiction of various hellish scenes in Lord of the Rings was "inspired" by his war experience.

The movie kept my attention, the acting is decent, the depiction of the era is spectacular.