Once you’ve hit 40, is your life now over? Not for Radha, a once-promising playwright. She is barreling toward the stigma of being single and a struggling artist at the age of 40. Facing nonstop rejections from the theatre community while teaching a motley group of teens, she becomes creatively re-invigorated when she returns to rapping, her long-forgotten passion. When her play finally gets going, however, she puts recording a rap demo on the back burner and must navigate the awful tension of compromising her voice for career success. Directed, written, and starring Radha Blank, this is a knockout film that is the purest independent film I’ve seen at Sundance so far.
This is the movie you go to Sundance to see. a strong, creative vision by Radha Blank carries this film. I loved the story, it’s universal and something everyone can root for. The film is shot in black and white, aside from any flashes to Radha’s imagination, showing us her vision of her play. I loved the strong choices the film took in it’s filming and editing. There are layers of different themes that the film talks about. what your creative voice is? What do you sacrifice to get your dream? When is something that you made no longer yours? and the main theme of wanting to be noticed and understood. This is the Rocky of 40-year-old theater teachers.
The music and rapping in this are all really strong and meaningful. Radha’s “Beats man” played by Oswin Benjamin is a great character to be the catalyst of Radha deciding to be creative and actually explore what she can do in the rap world. I liked that in this film, the measurement of success comes from skill in one sphere, but in Radha’s play-write world success and conformity come hand in hand. Her students, all are supportive of their teacher, aside from one who is a somewhat projection of her own fears of trying new things and putting herself out there. There’s a lot of humor to be had in between the great music, and that comes from her students and her best friend/manager played by Peter Y. Kim. He’s very over the top in his performance but I feel it’s intentional. Some of the humor might be accidental but still doesn’t take away from the film.
Overall I had a blast watching ‘The 40-Year-Old Version’. This is what Sundance was made to showcase. A strong vision, story, and performance from Radha Blank. I would strongly recommend checking this out to see just what can be done with modern independent film today.