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In the first volume of The Lord Of The Rings, author JRR Tolkien crafts a moving exchange between hobbit Merry Brandybuck and good friend Frodo Baggins about the unbreakable bond between members of the fellowship. "You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin - to the bitter end," begins Merry. "You can trust us to keep any secret of yours - closer than you yourself keep it. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo." The unspoken love between brothers in arms underpins Finnish director Dome Karukoski's handsomely mounted biopic of the writer of The Hobbit in the tumultuous years before the mist cleared over Middle-earth. Moving from the sun-dappled serenity of Sarehole Mill in Birmingham to the blood-stained pandemonium of the Somme, Tolkien employs a fractured chronology to piece together pivotal moments, which inspired a fantastical realm of wizards and elves. Digitally-rendered dragons rampage through the mind's eye as screenwriters David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford draw heavy-handed parallels between Tolkien's experiences in the trenches and the prosaic devastation wrought on the pages of his novels. John Ronald (Harry Gilby) and his younger brother Hilary (Guilermo Bedward) are orphaned at a young age. The boys' guardian, Father Francis Morgan (Colm Meaney), secures the children lodgings with kindly benefactor Mrs Faulkner (Pam Ferris). John Ronald becomes smitten with another resident, Edith Bratt (Mimi Keene), who is Mrs Faulkner's companion. Father Morgan sermonises against the relationship. "She's not even Catholic!" he blusters. Nearby, in the corridors of King Edward's School, John Ronald forms a secret society with classmates Geoffrey Bache Smith (Adam Bregman), Christopher Wiseman (Ty Tennant) and Robert Q. Gilson (Albie Marber). They trade youthful idealism about the power of art to reshape the world over cups of steaming tea at Barrow's Stores. As boys become men, John Ronald (now played by Nicholas Hoult) and Geoffrey (Anthony Boyle) languish beneath the dreaming spires of Oxford while Christopher (Tom Glynn-Carney) and Robert (Patrick Gibson) become proud Cambridge boys. Their studies are interrupted by the ghoulish spectre of war and John Ronald bids farewell to Edith (Lily Collins) to serve in the Lancashire Fusiliers. Disavowed by the author's estate, Tolkien is a conventional period drama that treads lightly on protagonists' shattered dreams as they endure tectonic shifts in the global political landscape. Hoult and Collins are an attractive pairing and they catalyse a smouldering screen chemistry. The script drip-feeds us aching loss and there are some haunting interludes including one poignant confessional between John Ronald and Geoffrey about the necessity of anguished, unrequited infatuation. Oh to feel so deliciously, helplessly giddy about Karukoski's picture.