Three Thousand Years of Longing Review: Tedious Ponderings

Three Thousand Years of Longing has the cinematography and acting performances to make it a magical romance fantasy, but its clumsy execution and misguided script turn it into a tedious pompous adaptation.

During a trip to Istanbul for a conference, British scholar Alithea (Tilda Swinton) buys an antique bottle from a random shop. She accidentally unleashes a Djinn (Idris Elba) trapped in the bottle for three thousand years. He offers Alithea three wishes.

Fortunately, this movie is based on a short story (The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye) so there’s a nifty twist to it. A creature that can grant whatever a person desires ends up with a mortal who has none. Alithea is a self-satisfied narratologist. She knows all too well that every story that involved wishes ends up as a cautionary tale. And besides, she is far too content to mess up her life.

But the Djinn is determined to have his third reincarnation be the last. He tells three tales of his past that also explains how he got trapped in the bottle to convince Alithea.

Swinton and Elba are, as expected, great in their roles. The Djinn’s three tales have vivid worldbuilding with royals, palaces, and court intrigue. These flashbacks are detailed, with cleaner and better visual effects than Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Thor: Love and Thunder combined.

However, as the plot progresses, Three Thousand Years of Longing remains a listless movie despite all the whimsy it throws at you. It suffers from the classic “show, don’t tell” problem, which is ironic for a movie about storytelling.

The one-note main characters spend the bulk of the movie (and the main story) in a hotel room. Alithea and Djinn are turned into plot devices so the movie can dress itself up as a swirling epic with existential musings.

The swirling epic is a collection of mildly interesting cliches, including a Djinn who keeps falling in love with the women who benefit from his powers to his demise. Of course, history repeats itself. To convince us this relationship is also an epic that took three thousand years of longing, you’ll see a naked but strategically covered-up Alithea posing with a Djinn. Imagine a book cover of a 90’s Jude Deveraux novel.

The existential musings touch on the power of stories, the unending cycle of human tragedy, metaphorical prisons, and transcendental love. But none of these make an impact because there are no engaging characters to give them meaning. It doesn’t help that Swinton and Elba have no chemistry.

In the end, Three Thousand Years of Longing is just a collage of pretty images haphazardly connected together. I guess you’ll just have to wait for George Miller’s next Mad Max movie.

Three Thousand Years of Longing


Three Thousand Years of Longing has vivid worldbuilding, but there's no cohesive story and engaging characters to bring it to life.

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