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Film Review: The 40-Year-Old Version

12 October 20 words: Katie Green

Winner of the Sundance Directing award, Radha Blank directs, writes and stars in this semi-autobiographical piece based on a struggling playwright going through a midlife crisis.

Director: Radha Blank
Starring: Radha Blank, Peter Kim, Oswin Benjamin
Running time: 129 minutes

Shot in black and white, we are introduced to a darkened room - and there lies Radha. Moaning and groaning in bed, she goes about her life as normal, everyday the same. We soon learn she is a has-been playwright and was previously in the “30 under 30” list. However, soon approaching 40, she is a teacher of a school theatre group and it soon becomes obvious to us she is going through a midlife crisis. 

Alongside her is her childhood best friend Archie, who is not only her emotional support but is also there to try and find her opportunities to get her next big break. After a bad night at a party, she suddenly hears a beat and from there, she takes a complete turn in her career towards wanting to become a rapper.

The 40-Year-Old Version promotes the idea that for someone like Radha, who feels as if they have no hope or no creative outlet, there is always hope - even though they may feel stuck - and there might be something that you might do something you wouldn’t expect to do.

Radha Blank has clearly thought smartly about the direction of this film

Although this film is shown through black and white, I feel as if this mirrors what Radha is feeling both internally and externally. It is clear she is having a midlife crisis, and to us as viewers we feel this due to the darkened and dull screening. Even if this black and white filming wasn't intended to represent her mood and feeling, I feel as on another level it is possibly showing how she feels stuck and that her talent is possibly over shadowed. This smart direction from Radha Blank is a move only a few directors would make today.

As Blank is responsible for all directive aspects of the film, she also clearly chose a fitting and suitable cast to the plot - especially in terms of one of her students Rosa. She may not be one of the main characters, but as a minor character her presence on screen is still significant as it brings the comedic mix to the plot. Rosa is very fond of her teacher. She is an independent teenager who isn’t afraid to speak her mind and I believe audiences will become fond of her as well due to her funny, witty short lines.

Perhaps the only downfall to this film is the beginning. Before watching it, I will admit knowing it was in black and white, it made me wonder if I was going to enjoy watching it. The start of the film is slow, and it takes a while to get into the flow. The lack of dialogue – alongside awkward silences – makes it difficult to get into the plot and understand what is going on.

However, Radha Blank has clearly thought smartly about the direction of this film. The 40-Year-Old Version covers many genres - drama, romance, comedy - and is definitely worth the watch.

Did you know? Blank said her character in the film is “about 65% me”. She originally conceived the project as an episodic series, but reworked the idea into a feature film following the death of her mother in order to express her grief through the story.

The 40-Year-Old Version is now on Netflix

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