30 Years to Life

Director: Vanessa Middleton
Screenwriters: Vanessa Middleton

Institute History

  • 2001 Sundance Film Festival


Vanessa Middleton's 30 Years to Life is a spirited and intelligent ensemble comedy that follows the lives of a group of friends as each faces the emotional crisis that comes with turning 30. Fueled by a superb script and a great cast, Middleton has fashioned a frothy, yet savvy, portrait of upper-class, urban, African American Gen-Xers who confront the specter of adulthood and grownup responsibilities of marriage, children, and career with fear, trepidation, and an urgent desire to escape.

With a zestful and truthful ring, 30 Years to Life portrays a set of engaging and personable characters: an investment banker with a great portfolio but few prospects for companionship; a stand-up comedian whose future in the biz is more than a little uncertain; a real-estate agent fighting a lifelong battle with weight; a marketing executive who fears that getting ahead is akin to growing old; and a young man in a long-term relationship who is being asked, "Where does it go from here?"

Middleton displays a remarkable perceptiveness about both sexes—so often a filmmaker seems capable only of speaking about one or the other—and elicits genuine and appealing performances from her attractive actors, making 30 Years to Life as absorbing as it is fun. For everyone who has been or is about to reach the "big three-o," this is a film that prompts questions about hopes and dreams. As for its director, however, her filmmaking skills guarantee a rosy life.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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