Three Thousand Years of Longing weaves adult whimsy that works well with its blending of fantasy and romance.
Published on September 1, 2022
Rating 4 /5
Fantasy often tends to favor stories of the young. In Three Thousand Years of Longing, however, we get what could only be referred to as modern and adult Arabian Knights. There’s a surprising level of maturity in this special-effects-heavy narrative which finds more than just theatrics to dazzle the audience. At its core, it’s a film about people in their golden years who are smart enough to see through their problems and maybe see each other.
Consider how the film frames Tilda Swinton as Binnie, a literary scholar. She’s fascinated by myths but more from an angle of them being used as breadcrumbs towards a better understanding of our world. She doesn’t, however, believe in such stories being real. This is a thought that haunts her amid she speaking at a conference in Turkey. Of course, there’s a backstory she covers up that she has yet to deal with.
Into Binnie’s life comes the Djinn (Idris Elba), an astute genie who will grant her three wishes. Binnie, being fully aware of how these stories usually go, proceeds with a questioning caution. She fears that the Djinn is only present to teach her some lesson and is a trickster. The Djinn, hoping to prove his genuine nature, decides to tell her all about his history. Much like Binnie, Djinn has fallen in love and had his heart broken over the years. He’s also had hope teased with his release and struggled to connect with humans.
Most of the film is just Binnie and Djinn trying to connect by revealing themselves. We get to spend a lot of time with Djinn through his stories of romance denied, sexual desires tantalized, legacies denied, and marvels revealed. We watch him wooed by the beauty of Queen of Sheba (Aamito Lagum) and how a mere mortal could give her more than all the wonders of the universe he could offer. We watch him come to the aid of a woman who desires to be pregnant and watch as egotism pushes him out, despite his best efforts to provide hope. Maybe a new romance could form with Binnie.
The film does an amazing job building to the inevitable moment where Djinn and Binnie will finally connect with love in the most emotional and physical. Their romance builds not from mere charm and eccentricities but a certain level of pathos and connection. I also loved how Binnie’s wishes must be bound by her heart, something that is not easy for her to come to terms with. In doing so, the film challenges an audience that may have grown jaded by the allure of fantasy stories. You may think you understand the mechanics of the tempting Djinn but that’s not the challenge present. The real challenge is finding love after having lost it so many times before. Sometimes the best romance is formed around someone just as broken to find empathy.
Three Thousand Years of Longing weaves adult whimsy that works well with its blending of fantasy and romance. It’s a story that treats its two leads with a level of maturity you may not see as much within a film involving magic bottles and wishes. It’s also highly introspective, trying to find more meaning in life than just the simple pleasures. For being bound by such heavy ambitions, director George Miller succeeds in crafting one of the most unorthodox and refreshing genre films.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.