The Forty-Year-Old Version (2020)

Despite the fact that I spend many hours a day on Netflix — either watching stuff or adding films to my endless watchlist — I would have never watched nor heard of Radha Blank's The Forty-Year-Old Version if it wasn't for Dell who praised it during Girl Week. And it would have been such a loss on my part as it turned out to be such an honest, intimate, and funny semiautobiographical dramedy.

Written, directed, and produced by Blank, The Forty-Year-Old Version follows Radha (Radha Blank), a playwright living in Harlem. The winner of a "30 Under 30" award, she is now months away from turning forty, she has been unable to get her plays produced for the past ten years, and teaches, without fulfilment, playwriting to high school kids. On top of that, she is also struggling to come to terms with the death of her mother and keeps ignoring calls from her brother about cleaning out their mom's apartment. 

One night, while standing in front of her mirror, she starts rapping about being forty. She is good and she knows it — after all, she used to rhyme all the time back in high school, and her gay best friend Archie (Peter Y. Kim) would also charge fellow high schooler to battle with her. This is a sort of lightbulb moment for her as she realises that maybe her direction was never playwriting but rapping.

But at the same time, Archie, who is now a successful agent, has a Broadway producer, J. Withman (Reed Birney), interested in her new play, "Harlem Ave", which is about a young black couple who own a grocery store threatened by gentrification. And soon Radha finds herself vacillating between being her true self and pursuing rapping, or getting her play produced and selling out as Withman wants her to whiten it up.

Blank brings to the screen an incredibly compelling story, full of heart and soul, that really inspires the viewer — especially if an artist — to pursue their goals, and to really keep working towards them despite the obstacles one has to face. It is also about the importance of being true to oneself, not only when it comes to one's art but life as well; and diversity, as everyone's story matter and deserves to be known, as Rahda teaches to her students. 

As one would expect from a film written by a playwright, The Forty-Year-Old Version is loaded with smart, sharp dialogue, which is beautifully delivered by the cast, amongst whom Blank stands out. Her performance obviously feels genuine and realistic — she is essentially playing herself, after all — as she delivers plenty of emotional depth while dealing with getting older, the loss of a parent, and second-guessing herself; but she also shines when it comes to the comedy as she displays brilliant comedic timing.

In addition, the film has catchy songs, especially Radha's rapping, and the black-and-white cinematography is very beautiful. 

Ultimately, The Forty-Year-Old Version is a must watch as it's one of those films that successfully manages to make you laugh and reflect about life. 


  1. I'm really happy you gave this a go and ecstatic that you enjoyed it. I'll accept this review as my Christmas present.

    1. I will never thank you enough for putting this on my radar as it's now one of my favourite films of 2020.