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Three Thousand Years of Longing

“There is no story about wishing that is not a cautionary tale”

Dr. Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton) embraces solitude. When she’s not teaching at the university, she spends her time reading and studying and feels the independence of not being attached to a spouse, child or family network. As a scholar of mythology and storytelling, she often travels to faraway lands to be in the world of the fantastical stories that she teaches. On one trip to Turkey, she finds a unique looking bottle in a shop. Upon opening it in her hotel room, suddenly a Djinn (Idris Elba) appears, offering her three wishes for whatever her heart desires (with a few rules of course). But Dr. Binnie knows better. Wishes never turn out how the asker intended them and Djinns like the one she conjured are often tricksters. Djinn taps into Dr. Binnie’s hunger for engaging storytelling and recounts the times he’s been released and trapped in a bottle. As the Djinn tells his stories, Dr. Binnie must come to terms with whether she should or should not ask for the three wishes offered.

Directed by George Miller, Three Thousand Years of Longing is a fanciful meditation on the power of human connection and stories. It’s light on the world building, focusing on small stories to tell a bigger tale of humanity and desire. Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton are fantastic in their individual roles but ultimately lacked chemistry with each other. The movie is based on A.S. Byatt’s short story The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye and adapted to the screen by Miller and Augusta Gore.

The screening I attended began with a message from the director thanking the audience for watching the film on the big screen. It’s definitely a film best viewed on the big screen. It’s a visual spectacle with some amazing cinematography by John Seale, who also worked with Miller on Mad Max: Fury Road. I do think it’s a film that could also be enjoyed at home. There are some subtle details, especially with Dr. Binnie’s mannerisms that can be seen with the female characters in Djinn’s stories. Repeat viewing will enrich the experience, finding those subtleties that were missed the first time around.

Three Thousand Years of Longing premiered at the 2022 Cannes FIlm Festival and is currently in theaters in the U.S., distributed by MGM.

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