The Forty-Year-Old Version

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The Forty-Year-Old Version
The 40 Year Old Version.jpeg
Official poster
Directed byRadha Blank
Written byRadha Blank
Produced by
  • Lena Waithe
  • Jordan Fudge
  • Radha Blank
  • Inuka Bacote-Capiga
  • Jennifer Semler
  • Rishi Rajani
CinematographyEric Branco
Edited byRobert Grigsby Wilson
Music byGuy C. Routte
  • New Slate Ventures
  • Hillman Grad Productions
  • Endeavor Content
Distributed byNetflix
Release date
  • January 25, 2020 (2020-01-25) (Sundance)
  • October 9, 2020 (2020-10-09) (United States)
Running time
129 minutes
CountryUnited States

The Forty-Year-Old Version is a 2020 American comedy-drama film written, directed, and produced by Radha Blank, in her feature directorial debut. It stars Blank, Peter Kim, Oswin Benjamin, and Reed Birney.[1]

Loosely based on Blank's own life, the film sees her playing Radha, a playwright and teacher who turns to rapping when she finds herself nearing her 40th birthday.

It had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2020, where Blank won the U.S Dramatic Competition Directing Award, and was released on October 9, 2020, by Netflix. It was named one of the ten best films of 2020 by the National Board of Review.[2]


Radha is a playwright and teacher nearing her 40th birthday and living under the burden of the unfulfilled promise of a 30 under 30 award she won nearly a decade ago. Archie, her agent and friend, gives her latest play Harlem Ave to J. Whitman, a wealthy white producer, who suggests her work needs to focus more on Black suffering. After he offers her a job writing for a Harriet Tubman musical, Radha throttles him. At a loss over what to do with her career, she hears rap music blasting outside her apartment and is inspired to start writing raps, following a passion she developed and abandoned in high school. Tracking down D, a music producer, she invents the name RadhaMUSprime. Her agent believes she is going through a breakdown.

D is initially distant towards her, but after they create a track together, Radha is shocked to find him willing to record a mixtape with her. D also invites Radha to perform at a showcase for up-and-coming rappers. Before the showcase Radha gets high and forgets her lyrics, leading her to humiliate herself in front of a crowd of her students.

Archie uses the recent death of Radha's mother to smooth things over with Whitman, who agrees to produce Harlem Ave. However, he tells her to add a white character to her play. As the play progresses to the workshop stage, Radha increasingly feels uncomfortable with the compromises she is making to appeal to white audiences.

Despite witnessing her bombing on stage, D encourages Radha to continue rapping. After taking her to an all-woman rap battle in the Bronx, the two spend the night together and open up about their lives as struggling artists and the way they are coping with the recent loss of their mothers. However, Radha brushes him off the next morning, telling him she needs to work on her play.

Radha continues to struggle with the compromises she makes to have the play produced. Cleaning out her mother's apartment with her brother, she reflects on her mother's career as a struggling artist. She is surprised and encouraged to see that her brother views their mother as a talented Renaissance woman rather than as a failure.

On her play's opening night, Radha appears during the curtain call and denounces her work, rapping about the need for an artist to stay true to their artistic vision. She fires Archie at the same time he quits and then heads to D's apartment to reunite with him. The film ends with the two walking together, him beatboxing and her rapping, as the shot slowly changes from black and white to color.


  • Radha Blank as Radha
  • Peter Kim as Archie
  • Oswin Benjamin as D
  • Imani Lewis as Elaine
  • Haskiri Velazquez as Rosa
  • Antonio Ortiz as Waldo
  • TJ Atoms as Kamal
  • Jacob Ming-Trent as Lamont
  • Stacey Sargeant as Stacey
  • William Oliver Watkins as Marcus
  • Meghan O'Neill as Jaime
  • André Ward as Forrest
  • Welker White as Julie
  • Reed Birney as J. Whitman


In August 2019, it was announced Radha Blank, Peter Kim, and Oswin Benjamin had joined the cast of the film, with Blank directing from a screenplay she wrote and Lena Waithe producing.[3] The title is a play on the 2005 comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin.


It had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2020.[4][5] Shortly after, Netflix acquired distribution rights to the film.[6] It was released on October 9, 2020.[7]


Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 98% based on 130 reviews, with an average rating of 8/10. The website's critics consensus reads "The Forty-Year-Old Version opens a compelling window into the ebbs and flows of the artist's life—and announces writer-director-star Radha Blank as a major filmmaking talent with her feature debut."[8] Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 80 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[9]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
Sundance Film Festival February 1, 2020 U.S. Dramatic Competition Directing Award Radha Blank Won [10]
U.S. Dramatic Competition Grand Jury Prize Nominated
Hollywood Music in Media Awards January 27, 2021 Best Original Song in a Feature Film "Poverty Porn" – Radha Blank and Christopher Tyson Nominated [11]
Best Music Supervision – Film Guy C. Routte Nominated
Satellite Awards February 15, 2021 Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical The Forty-Year-Old Version Won [12]
Austin Film Critics Association March 19, 2021 Best First Film Nominated [13][14]
The Robert R. "Bobby" McCurdy Memorial Breakthrough Artist Award Radha Blank Won
NAACP Image Awards March 22–25, 2021 Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture Nominated [15]
Outstanding Breakthrough Creative (Motion Picture) Nominated
Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture Won
Directors Guild of America Awards April 10, 2021 Outstanding Directing – First-Time Feature Film Nominated [16]
British Academy Film Awards April 11, 2021 Best Actress in a Leading Role Nominated [17]
Casting Society of America April 15, 2021 Studio or Independent – Comedy Jessica Daniels Won [18]
Motion Picture Sound Editors Awards April 16, 2021 Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Musical for Feature Film Lightchild Nominated [19]
Independent Spirit Awards April 22, 2021 Best First Feature The Forty-Year-Old Version Nominated [20][21]


  1. ^ The-40-Year-Old-Version Is a Fresh Take on an Old Formula|Vanity Fair
  2. ^ "Spike Lee's 'Da 5 Bloods' Named Best Film Of 2020 By National Board Of Review". Deadline Hollywood. January 26, 2021. Retrieved January 26, 2021.
  3. ^ McNary, Dave (August 5, 2019). "Lena Waithe Producing Comedy 'The 40-Year-Old Version' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved January 31, 2020.
  4. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (December 4, 2019). "Sundance Unveils Female-Powered Lineup Featuring Taylor Swift, Gloria Steinem, Abortion Road Trip Drama". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 31, 2020.
  5. ^ "The 40-Year-Old Version". Retrieved January 31, 2020.
  6. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (January 31, 2020). "Netflix In Talks To Acquire Radha Blank's 'The 40-Year-Old Version' – Sundance". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 31, 2020.
  7. ^ Sharf, Zack (August 26, 2020). "'The Forty-Year-Old Version' Trailer: Radha Blank's Sundance Winner Is a Must-See on Netflix". IndieWire. Retrieved August 26, 2020.
  8. ^ "The Forty-Year-Old Version (2020)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 10, 2021.
  9. ^ "The Forty-Year-Old Version Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved December 22, 2020.
  10. ^ Hipes, Patrick (February 1, 2020). "Sundance Film Festival Awards: 'Minari' Scores Double Top Honors – The Complete Winners List". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  11. ^ Grein, Paul (January 27, 2021). "Diane Warren & James Newton Howard Among Top Winners at 2021 Hollywood Music in Media Awards". Billboard. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  12. ^ Anderson, Erik (February 15, 2021). "Satellite Awards winners: 'Nomadland', 'Forty-Year Old Version' top film prizes; 'Schitt's Creek', 'Better Call Saul' take TV". AwardsWatch. Retrieved February 15, 2021.
  13. ^ Partridge, Jon (March 12, 2021). "2020 Austin Film Critics Association Award Nominations". Austin Film Critics Association. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  14. ^ Partridge, Jon (March 19, 2021). "2020 Austin Film Critics Association Award Winners". Austin Film Critics Association. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  15. ^ Davis, Clayton (2 February 2021). "Viola Davis, Tyler Perry and Regina King Up for Entertainer of the Year at 2021 NAACP Image Awards". Variety. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  16. ^ DGA Nominations: Emerald Fennell and Chloe Zhao Make the Cut, Three POC in First-Time Feature
  17. ^ Ritman, Alex (March 9, 2021). "BAFTA Nominations: 'Nomadland,' 'Rocks' Lead Charge in Most Diverse List in Awards' History". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  18. ^ Pedersen, Erik (February 19, 2021). "Artios Awards Film Nominations: 'Borat', 'Da 5 Bloods', 'Chicago 7', 'One Night In Miami' & More Up For Casting Society Prizes". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on February 20, 2021. Retrieved February 28, 2021.
  19. ^ Erik Pederson (March 1, 2021). "Sound Editors Nominate 'Wonder Woman', 'Sound Of Metal', 'Tenet' & Others For Golden Reel Awards – Full List". Deadline. Variety Media, LLC. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  20. ^ Warren, Matt (January 26, 2021). "2021 Film Independent Spirit Award Nominations Announced!". Film Independent. Retrieved February 5, 2021.
  21. ^ 2021 Film Independent Awards to Honor Television|IndieWire

External links[edit]