Set in 1992, Chicago, specifically the – projects “We Grown Now,” is a coming-of-age film with few peers to compare it to quickly.

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 Plot Summary

It’s the fall of 1992 in Chicago, and we’re focusing on the former Cabrini-Green public housing area. Specifically, “We Grown Now” hones in on two boys, Malik and Eric, and their families. They grew up together and share dreams. Malik can even convince Eric to skip school and explore the city together. Mind you, both are in middle school, so they are not even in their teens yet.

But, the bubble they live in, where they can enter abandoned apartments, lay on old mattresses, and talk, might be popped now. A kid just got shot due to gang violence. With this, security measures are put in place, the cops are pushed to do raids at 3 AM, and the question becomes, as the area continues to disintegrate, who will stay, who will go, and what will the decisions mean for Eric and Malik’s families and friendship?

Content Information

  • Dialog: Cursing
  • Violence: Gun Violence (Implied)
  • Sexual Content: none
  • Miscellaneous: Nothing notable

Characters and Cast Members

Character Name Actor Name
Malik Blake Cameron James
Eric Gian Knight Ramirez
Dolores Jurnee Smollett
Anita S. Epatha Merkerson
Jason Lil Rel Howery

Character Description(s)


Blake Cameron James as Malik
Blake Cameron James as Malik

Malik, Dolores’ eldest child, is smart, curious, and kind. He also is starting to get to that place where he has crushes.


Gian Knight Ramirez as Eric
Gian Knight Ramirez as Eric

Eric is the youngest member of his three-person household, and it seems he isn’t great at school, but he is an ace at being a best friend.


Jurnee Smollett as Dolores
Jurnee Smollett as Dolores

Dolores is Malik’s mom who works in payroll and is/was very much a daddy’s girl but loves her momma as well.


S. Epatha Merkerson as Anita
S. Epatha Merkerson as Anita

Anita is Dolores’ mom from Mississippi and spends most of her day sewing or watching Dolores’ kids. She is also the original renter of her family’s apartment, where she and her husband migrated up north after an incident back home.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “Poker Face.”


Lil Rel Howery as Jason
Lil Rel Howery as Jason

Jason is a widowed single father trying to make ends meet while asking his soon-to-graduate daughter to pitch in more than she should to help care for Eric.


Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)Recommended

Good If You Like

  • Dramas set in an urban area

Similar To This

  1. The Chi: A series that focuses on life in Chicago in modern times

Check out our movies page for our latest movie reviews and recommendations.

Notable Performances or Moments

The Benefits Of Being Raised In A Multi-Generational Household

One of the most notable things that wasn’t expected from “We Grown Now” was the multi-generational home Malik has. His little sister, mom, Dolores, and grandmother, Anita, are in his household. The beauty of seeing this is that Anita isn’t just there to babysit and isn’t some “I told you so” type of grandmother.

Epatha Merkerson brings that heart we saw from her Emmy-winning performance in “Lackawanna Blues,” where she isn’t just helping her daughter raise her kids but is also a source of comfort, a woman who carries the stories of her life and the life of her late husband. Thus, Dolores’ kids know where they came from and why their people moved from Mississippi.

When Anita casually talks to the kids, not lecturing them, you realize what is lost in modern times when grandparents are unknown or inactive in the lives of their kids, grandkids, and beyond. So many stories are lost, and moments like when Dolores has a hard day, you seeing her be this grown woman, holding down a household, yet still wanting to cuddle with her mom for comfort. All while Malik does the same thing, with him resting on his mother.

When we use the word “envy” in reviews, usually it is talking about how good a romantic pairing is, but seeing Anita play such a part in her daughter’s life and grandkids might be more beautiful than any relationship, no matter the chemistry, we’ve seen in a movie (since “Lackawanna Blues” – which we highly recommend).

A Beautiful Friendship

While Malik’s family is notable, so is his friendship with Eric. Mainly due to it being built like the friendships you may remember from 90s and 00 movies that usually started with us seeing the young counterparts of the characters before jumping to their teen and/or adult years. But in “We Grown Now,” we stay solidly in the one period of time and watch these two boys, who have known each other since they were babies and are the second sons to each other’s parents.

Seeing them dream together in an abandoned apartment, play this jumping game with the mattresses they find, go on adventures, and share moments of affirmation may sound cheesy, but like seeing Malik’s family, the depiction of Malik and Eric could, for those who do not have that type of relationship, cause nostalgia, a longing, or trigger the need to call or check up on someone.

What you get is a rush of memories of what it is like to be a kid and have a partnership with someone who is not your entire world but a fixture of it you can’t imagine ever being removed. This is why, as things get difficult between the boys, you may find yourself emotional, especially if you grew up in an age without everyone having access to a computer or a cell phone and thinking saying goodbye to anyone who didn’t live close could mean potentially not seeing them anymore.


While Urban, It Isn’t Utterly Depressing

Yes, in the movie, a kid gets shot, we’re told there is gang violence, and we see Chicago PD rip through Malik’s home. However, “We Grown Now” has no desire to be a “It’s hard out here in the hood” type of movie. Hope isn’t a silver lining, and you aren’t pushed to endure an entire movie to see things finally get good towards the end. What “We Grown Now” wants you to see is life.

Dolores and Eric’s dad, Jason, are working people. Dolores does payroll, and Jason seemingly works at a restaurant. Anita sews to help with the bills and remembers, and likely is part of the reason, there is still a sense of community in Cabrini-Green since she will sit outside the apartment and be accessible, see people’s children grow up, sometimes act a fool, but also have a sense of feeling like their neighbors aren’t strangers.

It’s all a balance that somehow became a tightrope walk, yet as shown by fellow Chicago set “The Chi,” you can acknowledge the conditions of a city but not dwell on it. There is more to any place than what makes the latest news headline.

How To Watch

Watch “We Grown Now” in theaters.

Background Information

Film Length 1 Hour 33 Minutes
Date Released April 19, 2024
Where To Watch In Theaters
Director(s) Minhal Baig
Writer(s) Minhal Baig
Based On Work By N/A
Genre(s) DramaYouthHistorical
Content Rating Rated PG

Listed Under Categories: , ,

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We Grown Now (2024) Movie Review


“We Grown Now” feels like the part we miss from great 90s and 00 movies due to the movie jumping forward to the teen or adult years. And in letting us see Eric at the precipice of losing hope and Malik as he moves away from everything he knows, it feels like we leave them just before everything changes.

  • The Benefits Of Being Raised In A Multi-Generational Household - 88%
  • A Beautiful Friendship - 85%
  • While Urban, It Isn't Utterly Depressing - 83%
User Review
0 (0 votes)


  • While Urban, It Isn’t Utterly Depressing
  • A Beautiful Friendship
  • The Benefits Of Being Raised In A Multi-Generational Household


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