Our heroine Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton) is a solitary scholar of literature. While at a conference in Istanbul, she buys an antique bottle in the Grand Bazaar ... and in her hotel room that evening while attempting to clean it, releases the Djinn within (Idris Elba). He makes her the classical offer: three wishes, and at the end he gains his freedom. But she refuses this offer, knowing that every story involving making wishes ends badly. So they end up telling each other stories of their lives (mosty him as he's older and more interesting).
This is ... a story about stories. The tales we tell, and the lessons they carry. The dangers of yielding to temptation.
George Miller directed this based on a short story by A. S. Byatt. His previous film was "Mad Max: Fury Road," which I loathed. But as the critical commentary suggested, this has approximately nothing to do with that. I loved the thought processes that went into the writing of this: how can you worm your way out of the danger of wishing? My only real complaint was Miller's studied but overworked attempts at beautiful and symmetric cinematography. A fair bit of the cinematography was quite beautiful ... but occasionally I felt like I could feel the cinematographer or the director reaching over my shoulder to make sure that something was exactly in the right place in the image. It was a weird sensation. As perfectly symmetrical as Wes Anderson's work is ("The Grand Budapest Hotel" is a fine example), I never felt pushed out of the work with it screaming "see how centred I am?!" Some of this felt a little too ... artful.
One of the most charming movies I've seen in quite a while.
As an amusing aside ... Elba towers over Swinton in this movie. That must have been hard to achieve: Swinton is 5'11" and Elba is only 6'2" (I wouldn't normally say "only" about that height, but standing beside her, that applies).