“Love is a gift. It’s a gift of oneself given freely. It’s not something one can ever ask for.”
ZombieDog’s rating: Worth your time.
ZombieDog’s review: When I write, I find it best to write to a specific audience. The audience I write these reviews for are, in my mind, film lovers. This is to say that if you’re visiting the site, then you want more. You want more depth, you want more insight, and you are not satisfied with simply seeing a generic rating. At least this is my assumption, it’s entirely possible that I can be completely off-base. I am, however, willing to think the people coming to the site enjoy movies on a higher level.
This level of admiration allows me a bit of leeway when I would otherwise feel constrained to write to a more generalized audience. Love of movies means that you understand all movies have the potential for somebody out there to passionately enjoy them. While this passion may not be shared it would almost certainly would be one of the binding factors that holds the B-movie community together.
On a fundamental note, movies simply would not exist without somebody to provide focus and vision to the countless individuals responsible for creating a finished piece of work. The director can make or break a film. However, a truly skilled director can elevate a film from the mundane to the profound. I see George Miller as one of those once-in-a-lifetime directors that not only adds to the zeitgeist but encourages us to demand more from the movies that are thrown at us. A brief look at his IMDb and you will see a director who is not tethered to a single perspective. He is a true visual storyteller, including his work on Lorenzo’s Oil (1992), Babe: Pig in the City (1998), and Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). All three of these films were Oscar-nominated and Mad Max won six Oscars that year.
In my mind I see Miller as an undisputed master filmmaker. He continues the streak with 2022’s Three Thousand Years of Longing. Its premise is easy enough to understand, and we have had this plot line before many times. However, Miller’s take on it is completely unique.
It is a basic genie-in-the-bottle story along with the three wishes that accompany it. The bottle finder, played by Tilda Swinton, is unique in her own right. She is a capable academic and is well aware of genies and the myths that surround them. Her character points out that “there is no story about wishing that is not a cautionary tale.” This one line of dialogue sets the tone for the whole movie. We have a character who knows that there is a difference between wanting and having. More than that, though, she’s old enough and wise enough to realize that the true subtleties in a good life are only achieved through struggle, journey, and growth. This is played in contrast to the genie (played by Idris Elba) who is bound by different rules, yet still seeks to find common ground.
Miller takes the classic genie story and places it in a completely new context by making their interaction adversarial. Alithea (Swinton) at one point threatens to make a wish that she never found the bottle in the first place. This provokes an immense amount of anger from the djinn. The reactions that Miller explores here allows us to see a brilliant example of character development. The djinn isn’t upset that Alithea isn’t playing by the rules; he’s upset because her actions have repercussions she’s completely unaware of. This is the heart of the film. They start talking and sharing their life experiences and we begin to see two souls that have seen too much. More than that though, we start to understand each person’s perspective and so do the characters. There’s a great deal at stake with these three wishes. The wishes are more than just wish fulfillment; they are a crossroads and a test for both characters.
Miller is telling an adult story with mature themes. Some of the themes are sexual in nature, but the real crux of the film is dealing with some of the most difficult problems life has to offer. Both characters are dealing with heartbreak, loss, disappointment, and — above all — loneliness.
The djinn is wiser, although this isn’t as helpful as you think it would be. At each step the characters reveal more about themselves, and we began to feel their vulnerability. The djinn takes the ultimate chance and tells her all of his secrets. For a fair chunk of the film, we just have two characters in a hotel talking, but once the genie starts telling his stories Miller shows his true abilities as a visual storyteller. The special effects, characters, setting, set design everything is made with exquisite attention to detail. I say with no hesitation that this film is brilliant.
I can’t help myself and I have to ask, do we as viewers of movies have a responsibility to those who make the movies, even movies that we don’t like? If we don’t encourage directors or reward creativity, are we not sealing our fate with the repetition in the films that are presented to us? I say this because Three Thousand Years of Longing had a budget of 60 million and only made 20 million back. Lorenzo’s Oil had a budget of 30 million and made seven back and Babe: Pig in the City had a budget of 90 million and made 70 back. All these films were losing propositions financially. Yet all these films are amazing in my opinion. I don’t have an answer to my own question; however, my fear is the allure of the incredible paycheck will overshadow the films that inspire us, the films that challenge us, and above all the films we make part of our lives.
Normally I would recommend movies of a similar story and subject matter however this film is a little unique so instead I will recommend three movies that I watched this week: Bachelor in Paradise (1961), Imitation Game (2014), and Spotlight (2015).