Audiences sometimes complain that Hollywood isn't producing anything original or interesting, yet they generally stay away in droves from movies that are marginally offbeat. As of this writing, Three Thousand Years of Longing has been in theaters for only three days and it is performing poorly at the box office, but it's a wonderful fantasy film. For me, it was so absorbing that its 108-minute running time flew by. I actually thought that maybe there was a mistake and the film was like a scant 80 minutes or something, but no, it was just damn good storytelling.
In Three Thousand Years of Longing, Tilda Swinton plays lonely British scholar Alithea Binnie. As the movie opens, Alithea is visiting Istanbul and purchases a blue antique bottle. Later, in her hotel room, she accidentally breaks the bottle and unleashes the Djinn (Idris Elba) that was trapped inside. The Djinn then offers Alithea three wishes, but before she uses them, she wants to know about the Djinn's past.
From there, the Djinn tells Alithea of his former owners, and how he became trapped in this particular bottle. As he tells these tales, he and Alithea become closer, and the final part of the movie is their story.
The movie is directed by George Miller, the man who gave us the high-octane Mad Maxmovies, and it's the great directors, like Miller, who can bend their style to the story at hand. Miller is no stranger to fantasy, as he directed the darkly funny The Witches of Eastwick in 1987. Along with Augusta Gore, Miller co-wrote the screenplay of Three Thousand Years which is based on the short story "The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye" by A.S. Byatt.
The romance between Alithea and the Djinn doesn't come off as a sugar coated made-for-Lifetime movie, but about the monotony of loneliness and the yearning for true companionship. The movie does employ digital effects, but they work, enhancing shots to where they look like beautiful oil paintings.
Three Thousand Years of Longing is an understated fairy tale that plays like a dream. It is one of the best films in theaters right now.