The emotional power of stories: 'Three Thousand Years of Longing' review

Kristofer Purnell - Philstar.com
The emotional power of stories: 'Three Thousand Years of Longing' review
Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton in "Three Thousand Years of Longing"
Go Asia Entertainment

MANILA, Philippines — As the year enters its final stages, eyes begin to look at which films will be in contention for the upcoming Academy Awards.

"Everything Everywhere All At Once" and "The Fabelmans" have emerged as early frontrunners. Brendan Fraser has received at least two standing ovations for his comeback performance in "The Whale," and the Philippines' own Dolly de Leon remains a favorite after her smashing role in Cannes winner "Triangle of Sadness."

Creeping from the curtains as if to join the race as a dark horse is George Miller's "Three Thousand Years of Longing" starring Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba in an adaptation of a short story by A.S. Byatt.

The film follows Swinton's Alithea Binnie, a narratologist who contently lives a solitary life, until she comes across an antique bottle during a trip to Turkey where in rubbing it clean unleashes a Djinn, played by Elba, who will grant her the quintessential three wishes.

Most people, or anyone who's seen "Aladdin," will be familiar about the rules of wishing through genies, and as a studier of stories, Alithea is skeptical about the whole procedure; and so the Djinn proceeds to tell her tales of his entrapment.

"Three Thousand Years of Longing," at its very core, is a film about stories and human emotions. It revolves around these two aspects and does so with such intimacy.

Related: 'The Mummy' star Brendan Fraser cries during standing ovation for comeback film

A strong screenplay has never been Miller's strongest suit. The veteran director best known for the "Mad Max" franchise, the "Happy Feet" and "Babe" films, had the first "Babe" as arguably his best work, had he not resurged with "Mad Max: Fury Road."

So having the help of Augusta Gore to make this passion project come to fruition played to his benefit, especially as the film explores the relationships of two different figures across times — singular among them a woman consumed by love.

In some ways, "Three Thousand Years of Longing" is the opposite of "Mad Max: Fury Road" — its noise fuelled by emotions and wonder rather than the revving engines of apocalyptic vehicles, but it finds common ground in the urge to find resolve even though it isn't so clear yet.

The film is captivating in how it shows the outcomes that transpire from the emotional decisions of figures made of either dust or smoke — crude matter as Yoda would put it — but it is in this corner where it could make or break the attention of viewers.

People who enjoy the value and power of storytelling will equally enjoy "Three Thousand Years of Longing," and it will bank on enlightening those who don't that in realizing our heart's desires, we may find yearning evokes a different pain to that of being alone.

"Three Thousand Years of Longing" is now showing in Philippine theaters.

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