Wideshot Reviews: The 40-Year Old Version (2020)

It’s a movie about a mediocre life, making life-affirming decisions that I think most people need to see. If there’s one overarching point I had gotten from this film, it would be that mediocrity isn’t a result of your actions, it is a state of being that you choose.

Review by: Rashed Andrei Zafra
Edited By: Robbie Claravall
Director: Radha Blank
Cast: Radha Blank, Peter Kim, Oswin Benjamin, Reed Birney
Genre: Drama

I f you’re any kind of artist, whether it be a screenwriter, musical scorer, or you simply have a passion for something, life always seems to manage to contrive the very best parts of that passion and turn it into a hollow shell of its former self. When you finally find someone daring enough to pay you, you’re joyed. You think about all these amazing ideas that you can give to your kind benefactor and start to imagine many other possibilities should they not like it. But all too soon, as everyone who was suddenly thrust into the workforce experiences — this is not the reality. Because it’s not about what you want, it’s about what they want.

But no, this film is not about a young 20-something year old fighting for their passion and artistic integrity. It’s not going to be that movie where the protagonist still has the energy quality of someone untainted by the dirty real world, no. We’re skipping that youthful joy in this film; that burst of defiant passion to fight against all odds doesn’t last forever you know. This is a story of a writer — now almost in her 40s — struggling to remake herself from that constant war of attrition between her dreams and stone-cold reality.

Immediately, I’m convinced as to how her life has been summarized in the opening scenes. Writing (as any parent seems to know) isn’t a very lucrative career path regardless of the kind of industry (Aaron Sorkins and Shonda Rhimes aside). From the background detail of her apartment, to the way she carries herself throughout the movie, it’s like you can see imprints of what life has done to her being. Her interactions and outlook simply carry what 20 years of being in this career would look like. And the monochrome gives this effect of bleakness that teeters a little too close to our personal reality if you’re into that.

The journey of trying to change one’s life in itself isn’t something new, but it is nice from time to time to take a look at somebody else undertaking that drastic decision for us.

Throughout the movie, you could say I was engaged… heavily. There’s something so interesting about seeing the raw and middle life of a mediocre, but with good intentions, artist. We always get the same rags-to-riches story: about how they followed their passions and fulfilled their wildest dreams through sheer hard work and seemingly no amount of luck considered. But that story just isn’t possible for everybody. In those rare lives, mediocrity is destined for us.

And I believe that this movie did prove that very point: that you don’t need widespread fame and recognition. That you don’t need an exorbitant income to be happy with what you do. That you don’t need the approval of others to be happy, just your own. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you’re happy doing it. It was when this most powerful scene was realized that I knew that this film had been worth my time.

Just remember, this movie does have its flaws. And I will say, it may err on tedious at times. But I like to see it as a part of its overall appeal to everyday life, both exciting and boring times.

I hope I’ve given you at least an idea of what this movie portrays. It’s a movie about a mediocre life, making life-affirming decisions that I think most people need to see. If there’s one overarching point I had gotten from this film, it would be that mediocrity isn’t a result of your actions, it is a state of being that you choose.

August 13, 2021

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Loyola Film Circle

Loyola Film Circle

The premier film organization of Ateneo de Manila University

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