THE FORTY-YEAR-OLD VERSION (2020)

(Netflix) Radha, a black woman living in NYC is on the verge of turning forty, re-evaluating her life as a struggling playwright, and contemplating revisiting her teen rapping aspirations.

I love a film that draws a full portrait of the protagonist immediately out of the gate and damn, the opening of this film deserves to be framed. Thankfully, the rest of the film spends its time spooling out everything that brought her to her current state, then explores how she’s trying to move forward.

Deftly shot, utilizing numerous inventive, but not gimmicky, techniques, it’s a visually sumptuous black-and-white film, but it’s the script that really shines. While the story beats are familiar, they’re very welcome, and Radha (Radha Blank, who also wrote/directed/produced VERSION) is exceptional at undercutting a scene, at penning rhymes, at acerbic comments, at maintaining a joke rate that you’d expect from a sitcom, and also finely timing the scenes. To say she’s the writerly equivalent of a triple-threat would do her on-screen performance and direction a disservice.