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  • Writer's picturePopEntertainment

Three Thousand Years of Longing (A Movie Review)

Updated: Aug 7, 2023


Starring Idris Elba, Tilda Swinton, Aamito Lagum, Burcu Gölgedar, Matteo Bocelli, Kaan Guldur, Jack Braddy, Hugo Vella, Alyla Browne, Pia Thunderbolt, Anna Adams, David Collins, Angie Tricker, Anthony Moisset, Berk Ozturk, Sage Mcconnell, Abel Bond, Agani Gecmez, Ayantu Usman, Peter Bertoni, Lianne Mackessy, Harlan Norris and Leslie Krahner.

Screenplay by George Miller and Augusta Gore.

Directed by George Miller.

Distributed by Metro Goldwyn Mayer. 108 minutes. Rated R.

Writer/director George Miller has always had eclectic tastes in projects. From the all-out dystopian action of the Mad Max films to the supernatural dark comedy of The Witches of Eastwick to the medical melodrama of Lorenzo’s Oil to the family-friendly talking animals of the Babe and Happy Feet movies, you never know quite what is going to capture his interest.

So, it’s not exactly a shock that he totally reboots again for his latest, a highly-stylized romantic fantasy-drama about the existential difficulty of life as a genie – a story that, as the title suggests, spans about three millennia.

Three Thousand Years of Longing is an interesting, smart, diverse and extremely well-made movie. The acting by the two leads is terrific – as to be expected with Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba. The movie looks stunning. It’s a very impressive achievement.

I just wish that I could say I liked it more than I did.

Strangely, for a film which is about the immortal life of a djinn – which explores multiple encounters the creature has over the years – the film does not quite deliver the magic that is its hero’s stock in trade. Also, for a film that strongly posits that the only thing that can make the millennia bearable is love, Three Thousand Years of Longing feels oddly cold and detached.

For a film that is all about storytelling – and a great deal of the film is just the djinn telling his stories in flashback – the actual story is kind of the weak point here.

In fact, storytelling is the specialty of the lead character Alithea (Swinton). A professor who specializes in Narratology, she is in Istanbul to give a lecture at a conference. She’s kind of a loner, someone who not only enjoys but relishes a solitary search for knowledge. Or so she says.

One night in her hotel suite, she inadvertently releases a djinn from its bottle. The djinn (Elba) begs her to make three wishes of her heart’s desire so that he can be released. The problem is, as a specialist in the world of mythological fables, Alithea is all too aware of the dangers inherent in taking a djinn up on such an offer – there are often unforeseen circumstances which undo the good that is expected. Also, honestly, she is unsure she believes he is really a djinn. Even if he is for real, she is really rather content with her life of scholarly solitude. She is having trouble with the idea of coming up with wishes that are “her heart’s desire.”

Therefore, while she is deciding, she has the djinn tell her stories of his previous encounters with humans, as well as his years of solitary waiting in between.

And that is what happens, the djinn tells a series of fantastical tales about his experiences with humankind spanning the centuries, while Alithea listens and periodically asks him questions. It feels like a bit of a waste that a strong actress like Swinton is used in a role that is largely reactive for the first two-thirds or so of the film. Her interactions are ramped up during the last segments, where Alithea finally comes up with a wish, which becomes much more complicated for both of them than either one would have imagined.

The mythological flashbacks are interesting, but overly condensed. The modern-day sequences work a little better, although I’m not sure the storyline ever quite connects completely. Three Thousand Years of Longing is a brave attempt by Miller to tell a very different kind of tale, but more than occasionally the plot feels like a bit of a muddled mess.

However, wow, it all looks amazing.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: August 25, 2022.


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