Three Thousand Years of Longing Review

George Miller is coming off of one of the biggest hits of his career with 2016’s Mad Max: Fury Road. It won six Academy Awards and spawned another film in the Max Max franchise, Furiosa. But action epics aren’t the only thing that Miller excels at making. His latest film, Three Thousand Years of Longing, is quite different from anything he’s done before.

Althea Binnie (Tilda Swinton) is a literary scholar on tour in Istanbul, Turkey. While there, she goes shopping and buys a mysterious little bottle. She takes the bottle back to her hotel room, and after she takes a shower, she decides to clean some dirt off the bottle, inadvertently opening it. What happens next is unbelievable. A giant man is now in her room, and she threatens to call the authorities if he doesn’t leave. He eventually convinces her he is a Djinn (Idris Elba) who’s been stuck in a bottle for thousands of years. He also explains the rules of her wishes and that she must wish for her heart’s desires.

Yes, George Miller has directed a film about a genie. This isn’t Disney’s Aladdin, though. It is an existential journey through his life and how one thing has eluded him through the ages. That one thing also endears him to Swinton’s character: love. That’s where this film gets into the meat and potatoes of what it’s trying to say. Love, lost love, and trying to find love are not as simple as they sound. 

This film is a philosophical look at a Djinn cursed with living life forever by being stuck in a bottle for many years at a time. It shows his occasional forays out of the bottle. What is life like for this genie, and how is his life affected by those who open his bottle? That’s where Swinton’s character comes in. She isn’t like any of his other masters. She’s very smart and brings up questions that help the Djinn think about his existence. Her life is of no coincidence except when she utters her first wish.

Even though this film is basically set in one location, it does span generations. With that comes the various places the Djinn has been in time. There are some beautiful sets and locations that this film goes to. The costumes and hair design are fantastic. This film’s production value and design are some of the best of the year so far. Miller is known for making his films look otherworldly, and this one, at times, is no different. I felt like I was back in time at some of the moments in this film.

Even though this film has a bigger cast, it is pretty much a two-hander most of the time. The heart of this film is the relationship between Swinton and Elba. They have a rapport with one another that is damn near perfect. They seem to have been working together for years because of how good they are together opposite each other in this film. They are able to play off of different cues that each has in the conversation. This makes the exposition scenes much more effective in the context of the film. Their scenes together are incredible. 

Between all the historical aspects of this film and the exposition scenes in that hotel room, this film is trying to tell a story of love lost and found. I can relate to this, and that’s the main theme I grasped onto the most while watching it. Love is fleeting, but it is also hard to find in the first place. I couldn’t bear living thousands of years without finding love bad enough. I’ve lived almost half a century without it. It’s not easy being lonely. 

Three Thousand Years of Longing has the main story of a woman who finds and opens a bottle with a Djinn in it. The period aspects of the film were quite beautiful to look at. The production design, costumes, and hairstyles were on point throughout the historical parts of the film. Miller decides to parlay his fame as a director of the Mad Max franchise into being able to make a literal love letter, and it’s a masterpiece of filmmaking. It has a great message of love and trying to find love, something I could relate to. Love isn’t easy to find for some. Hopefully, most of us won’t have to go thousands of years to find it.

4 1/2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media

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