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WE GROWN NOW tells the story of two best friends growing up in the 90s in the infamous (and now-demolished) Chicago housing project, Cabrini-Green. 12-year-olds Malik and Eric are inseparable — they idolize Michael Jordan, compete in jumping contests, play hooky at the Art Institute. But when a shooting hits too close to home, the hard realities of safety confront Malik’s mother (Jurnee Smollett), and she must make a difficult decision about her family’s future. This warmly photographed, beautifully acted drama was nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Feature.  


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“Baig has a textured, refreshingly unfussy way of perceiving coming-of-age stories, favoring intimate moments over explosive ones, with an assured handle on a sense of time and place… With immersive beats and warm-hued visuals that sneakily envelop you, it’s the kind of evocative film you just comfortably slip into. Playing best friends Malik and Eric, terrific young co-stars Blake Cameron James and Gian Knight Ramirez…both bring an extraordinary sense of resolve and wisdom to their respective roles, a kind of actorly maturity well beyond their years…Even in its quietest moments, WE GROWN NOW feels alive through the kids’ joint triumphant spirit and Baig’s discernible love and care for them.”
– Tomris Laffly, Variety

“A lyrical portrait of childhood in Cabrini-Green. An evocative memory piece, wistful and honest, and a different kind of portrait of a very infamous place…A delicate look at what life might have felt like beyond the fear-mongering headlines, with an elegant score from Jay Wadley. WE GROWN NOW is slightly dreamy and stylized, too, but instead of a liability, it makes this very small story feel grand, poetic and cinematic — just like it would for an 11-year-old.”
– Lindsey Bahr, Associated Press

“In Windy City native Baig’s solid hands, it’s a resolutely poetic, at times even golden-hued portrait of lives unafraid to hope amid growing despair.”
– Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times

“Each image and sequence of WE GROWN NOW vibrates with an energy and style befitting its subjects’ inner life, moving and framing their exploits in an excitable flow… James and Ramirez offer similarly winning, realistic turns. Their performances are understated, heartfelt, pushy and smug — little boys, energetic and pleased with themselves…It’s their perspective we cling to, and their problems we wrestle with.”
– Jacob Oller, Paste

“Grade: A. MASTERFUL. A GORGEOUS GEM OF A FILM with a distinct and engrossing sense of place… A portrait of an arrested and arresting childhood. It’s also a story about friendship, about two boys who find refuge in each other’s company…An intimate film that’s awash with beauty: ‘There’s poetry in everything,’ Malik’s grandmother tells him at one point–she may as well be describing the very aesthetic of WE GROWN NOW.”
– Manuel Betancourt, A/V Club

“Delicately captures both the wonder and tunnel vision of adolescence…the film is held together by the universal strength of its performances, particularly James and Smollett, and the elegance with which it veers between dreamy interludes and poetic flourishes stemming from Malik’s imagination and the more quotidian presentation of the small world he lives in, warts and all.”
– Derek Smith, Slant

“First-time actors James and Ramirez are naturals, giving maybe the best kid performances I’ve seen since THE FLORIDA PROJECT…We feel as protective of these boys as does Malik’s mother, wonderfully played by [Jurnee] Smollett…The power of this film sneaks up on you. It glides from jubilation to heartbreak without missing a beat.”
– Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor

“A delicate coming-of-age story…Baig is skilled at looking, and in WE GROWN NOW she flexes the dynamism of her perspective…a film that takes the idea of beauty seriously and works, with deceptive ease, to show us the tiny pleasures that make up life in Cabrini-Green.”
– Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter

“Renewing the coming of age roots she planted in her debut feature HALA, writer-director Minhal Baig captures two Black kids navigating systemic racism, brutal policing and broken promises, while imagining an unlikely better life. An unassuming character study set to poetic rhythms makes for an empathetic study of Black life, full of resolve. WE GROWN NOW notices the contradictions of loving a place for the good, while acknowledging its insurmountable sorrows. Baig’s lithe script tells viewers why Black folks departed the now demolished Cabrini-Green during the 1990s, paralleling it with the Black community’s contemporary exodus from Chicago.”
– Robert Daniels, Screen International

“A story of youth, creativity, and the vitality of innocence…a deeply Chicago movie that hums with [its] vital energy and danger… a solid family drama anchored by warm visual language, deep empathy for its characters, and a wonderful performance by Jurnee Smollett.”
– Brian Tallerico,

Film Forum