This must-see film has already secured its place in film history. It’s feelgood, but it’s also packed with life lessons and observations about being a culture-compromiser and a crowd-pleaser, or staying true to your authentic self. It may be called The Forty-Year-Old Version, but it will resonate with anyone over 20.
The film started life as a web series, inspired by Blank’s real-life experience as a playwright and rapper in Harlem. We see that as Radha’s talented on-screen persona tries to find her voice in, and between, the worlds of teaching, hip-hop and the theatre.
Radha Blank stars as the fictional version of herself and some have said that Radha’s onscreen life is unfulfilled and that she’s down on her luck. I didn’t see it like that. I mean life isn’t a 24/7 party. There are moments like that, but most of the time, we’re just living our lives and getting through each day. Isn’t that what most people do? And anyway, wouldn’t a 24/7 party lead to tedium? Radha may tell us in a follow on…but until then, let’s all celebrate the Radha in us.
Forty is the age when you traditionally take stock of your life and want to reinvent yourself. Depending on how old you are, seeing Radha’s experience played out on screen may just resonate with your own forty-something-experiences, or it may just inspire your own reinvention (at any age) and save you some of the pain along the way…
There’s no final conclusion at the end of the film, just lots of hope that leaves us wondering will she, won’t she…rapper or writer…teaching or the theatre…there is so much on offer…the world is Radha’s oyster…what a glorious Forty-Year-Old Version…
If you want a great night in, this film is a must-watch. Fantastic performances. Great settings. A brilliant story. So grab the popcorn and enjoy the action with family or friends. You’ll share the laughs and the groans and wince at the painfully embarrassing bits…where you recognise yourself…
About the filmmaker – Radha Blank
What of the multi-talented writer, director and actor who brought us this amazing film – and took me on a memorable emotional journey?
Radha Blank is a filmmaker, an artist, a true creative with a keen eye, as you can see in this movie, superbly shot on black and white 35-millimeter film.
This year, Blank became the second Black woman to win the Directing Prize at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, not bad for her first feature film! Blank is a worthy winner, with her movie presenting the challenges of making meaningful, personal art, about and by a person from an underrepresented group, from their own, unique perspective.
As an actor, Blank gives a very fine performance as the semi-fictionalised version of herself, also named Radha Blank, a struggling artist from Harlem who was hailed years earlier as a promising playwright.
It would be a mistake to squeeze Blank into any kind of mould based on her influences. One of these is Spike Lee; and Lee invited Blank to write a few episodes of the TV series spawned from his 1986 film, She’s Gotta Have It. Blank has also written for Baz Luhrmann’s The Get Down, and the record industry drama Empire.
However, she’s expressing it, Radha Blank has a voice that is gloriously her own, whichever version of it we hear next.
Premieres on Netflix globally 9 October 2020
Produced By – Lena Waithe, Jordan Fudge, Radha Blank, Inuka Bacote-Capiga, Jennifer Semler and Rishi Rajani
Starring – Radha Blank, Peter Kim, Oswin Benjamin, Imani Lewis, Haskiri Velazquez, Antonio Ortiz, TJ Atoms, Jacob Ming Trent, Stacey Sargeant, William Oliver Watkins, Meghan O’Neill, André Ward, Welker White, and Reed Birney