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Three Thousand Years of Longing Review

George Miller is back with his third film in 10 years. Mad Max, Babe, Happy Feet – all critically and financially successful and yet we rarely see his name pop up in the credits. So something big had to be next for Miller. And that ambitious film was none other than Three Thousand Years of Longing. A film so unique and different that it makes complete sense for Miller to direct. But was this film worth his return to directing? Does it live up to the hype of his previous films?

Three Thousand Years of Longing is a romantic / fantasy film written and directed by George Miller. It sees a lonely scholar – Tilda Swinton – who is granted three wishes by a Djinn (Idris Elba).   

Every time you go to the cinemas, you kind of know what you are already going to see. Between trailers and marketing, you have a pretty rough idea of what is coming. I was completely blindsided by this film. Three Thousand Years of Longing shocked me from beginning to end and that is for one core reason – the sound design.

I haven’t seen a movie as precise and careful with its use of music and sound in a long time (probably Mad Max actually). Each scene uses it so sparingly that it makes the audience glued to the world in front of them. Even the transitions between locations use natural sound to make the film flow. But what accentuates this creative choice is the writing.

George Miller and Augusta Gore have replaced music with a script that feels like a song. The dialogue has a perfect rhythm that makes this film flow. You almost forget the lack of music when the words spoken by Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba feel poetic. For a film about storytelling, Miller understands exactly what makes a story work. It is not about the visual elements but instead the spoken word and that is exactly why this narration works so well. And while these effects were striking, they were not what made me love this film. Instead, it was the movies core theme.

The emphasis on the importance of storytelling to humanity is a perfect golden thread and something that means a lot to me. Three Thousand Years of Longing not only reminds the audience on why we need stories to survive but also the different forms they can take. It accomplishes this through roughly 6 separate stories each more intriguing and different then the last. With different themes and messages, they will leave any audience wanting to spend more time in the mind of George Miller.

Like a song however, the film ebbs and flows. It did have moments where I lost interest and was not completely gripped by the story. I think it comes down to the run time. While an hour and 40 minutes is by no means a long film, I do think it could have been cut down. If this film was 15 minutes shorter, the pacing would have been fantastic. When so much time is spent in one location, it is pivotal that the audience is still hooked by the story and especially the actors.

(Spoilers)

Now I did like the performances of Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba. In fact, I loved them. They both did an excellent job of displaying loneliness and how it affects people in different ways. Also, what stories can mean to people’s lives. Where their performances fell a little flat was in the chemistry. I never felt the love between them. While they bounce off each other well, the sudden turn in the story didn’t make sense for these characters. It felt like a sharp right turn in a direction I didn’t think these George Miller and these actors were going for.

Should you see this film?

Yes absolutely. It is a movie that will sit with you for days on end. Not only is it a completely original story but it is the craft of it that will keep you hooked. However, I do recommend going in expecting a slower pace and a different method to most Hollywood movies.