“We Grown Now” review: Hope in Cabrini-Green | WORLD
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We Grown Now

MOVIE | An intimate look at childhood, trials, and friendship in a forgotten Chicago housing project

Sony Pictures Classics

<em>We Grown Now</em>
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Rated PG

In 1992, Chicago’s Cabrini-Green apartment complex housed 15,000 black residents whose families had lived in generations of poverty. We Grown Now looks at the housing project through the eyes of two best friends.

Inspired by the legendary Michael Jordan, 10-year-old Malik (Blake Cameron James) and his best friend Eric (Gian Knight Ramirez) go “jumping”: Whoever gets the most air time before landing on an old mattress wins. But youthful games must give way to harsh reality in Cabrini-Green.

Things change for the boys after a sniper guns down 7-year-old Dantrell Davis. Policemen perform drug busts without warning, and it’s not safe to go jumping anymore.

Malik’s father isn’t around, and his mom (Jurnee Smollett) works long hours to make ends meet. The increasing dangers and a new work opportunity cause Mom to decide it’s time to move.

Compelling sound design and cinematography bring tenement life into sharp relief, allowing the plot to focus on the boys’ friendship. Malik hopes for a better future. Erik struggles to grasp that there’s a better future to hope for, and the tension between them grows as their understanding of the world changes.

This intimate film about childhood, trials, and friendship doesn’t have much objectionable material. The filmmakers keep a lot of action off-screen. We don’t see the murder of Dantrell Davis, and it’s not clear what happened to Malik’s dad. The movie implies that the absence has deeply affected Malik.

When the boys recite the Pledge of Allegiance at school, the words, “with liberty and justice for all,” echo for ironic effect. But We Grown Now doesn’t bask in bitterness even as it acknowledges a community that was swept under the national rug. Instead, the film focuses on growing up and holding on to hope.

Bekah McCallum

Bekah is a reviewer, reporter, and editorial assistant at WORLD. She is a graduate of World Journalism Institute and Anderson University.


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