You can always count on George Miller to zig when you expect him to zag. The 77-year-old Australian director is just as known for his talking animal family flicks as he is for his gritty Mad Max series. This time around, his first film following the massive Oscar-winning success of Mad Max: Fury Road (my personal all-time favourite film), he surprisingly goes in neither direction. Instead, he scaled back and decided to make a weird, interesting romantic fantasy/sort-of anthology in Three Thousand Years Of Longing.
The film is a loose adaptation of the short story “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye” and centers on Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton), a narratologist who is perfectly content living a solitary lifestyle studying and giving presentations on storytelling. During a work trip to Istanbul, she is drawn to a mysterious bottle, which is revealed to contain a Djinn (Idris Elba) who offers her three wishes.
Considering her awareness of mythology and how stories of this type always end badly for the grantee, she’s immediately suspicious of whether the Djinn has ulterior motives, despite him frequently saying otherwise. To alleviate this, the Djinn tells her stories of his experiences and relationships with others whose wishes he tried to grant (successfully and unsuccessfully) across 3000 years of captivity.
“I wanted to love Three Thousand Years of Longing more than I did.”
While a majority of Three Thousand Years Of Longing takes place in Alithea’s hotel room, the Djinn’s stories unfold on screen in anthology-style vignettes. Although the CGI is mostly wonky, Miller manages to give these scenes a visual style that manages to keep them engaging. Also, the anthology style means that some stories are more interesting than others, and sometimes those less interesting ones get more screen time. That being said, I found myself most invested in the conversation between the two leads in the hotel. The movie is equal parts about the nature and evolution of storytelling as it is just 2 lonely creatures searching for a meaningful connection, which both Swinton and Elba do very well here.
The most unfortunately frustrating aspect is it feels like Three Thousand Years Of Longing doesn’t really know how to end. While the first 2 acts manage to remain engaging, the romantic elements come more into play in the third act, but the movie can’t seem to find a way to carry those elements to a logical endpoint. It doesn’t help that it fades to black several times. It’s like that joke that people say about Return of the King having 10+ endings.
I wanted to love Three Thousand Years of Longing more than I did. If you’re expecting Mad Max-level insanity, this is not for you. That being said, I still found it to be an interesting character piece masquerading as fantasy that I enjoyed more than I didn’t. While we know Furiosa is in the middle of filming right now, I’m still very interested in what strange direction Miller will take up afterwards.
This content was originally published here.