Review: Three Thousand Years of Longing

Score: B+

Director: George Miller

Cast: Tilda Swinton, Idris Elba, Erdil Yasaroglu, Ece Yuksel

Running Time: 108 Minutes

Rated: R

Three Thousand Years of Longing is one of the year's truly special films. A major director, working with top-notch talent, given the budget and freedom to tell the story he wants. There's no telling how much longer something like this will happen in this age of studio consolidation, IP obsession, and a shift to streaming.

George Miller, in his first film since the masterful Mad Max: Fury Road, joins forces with newcomer Augusta Gore to adapt A.S. Byatt's hypnotic fairytale. The results are simply magical.

Tilda Swinton stars as Alithea, a literary scholar who genuinely enjoys her solitary life. During a conference in Istanbul, she purchases a glass bottle at the city's famous grand bazaar, not knowing it contains a powerful djinn (Idris Elba). Their love of stories and years of solitude bond them in a short amount of time. As they tell each other about their lives - both filled with highs and lows - their attraction grows.

While this set-up could have made for a fantastic play, Miller's brilliant cinematic eye delivers visual wonders at every turn. The djinn spent most of his life in lavish palaces, and the jaw-dropping costumes and production design bring the royal excesses to the forefront. Even if the special effects aren't always at the highest quality, the meticulously hand-crafted elements never disappoint. Miller also fills his frame with stunning faces of all ages, races, genders and sizes.

Three Thousand Years of Longing premiered at Cannes to a standing ovation, but the vagaries of the film business mean you'll be unlikely to do the same. Even though the film will release wide this weekend, its lack of marketing in the U.S. means it's almost destined to flop. That makes it a perfect pair with the visually and narratively similar The Fall, which barely had a theatrical release but became a cult favorite on video. Both films deserved better.

So if you love moving stories, eye-popping visuals and limitless ambition, don't wait. You'll be longing for another film with this much vibrancy.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.