‘We Grown Now’ Ending Explained & Movie Recap: What Happens To Malik And Eric?

It is a privilege to call a place home—a place where one can feel safe, but most importantly, where one can feel a sense of belongingness amidst people they know and love. Minhal Baig’s meditative social drama We Grown Now examines the varied connotations of this belongingness against the backdrop of the Cabrini-Green public housing project in Chicago during the 1990s, through the eyes of the youngest members of two African-American families. As the movie revolves around the coming-of-age story of friends Malik and Eric, their experience of growing up in a neglected, marginalized, and exploited neighborhood and the effort they make to save their dreams while trying to enjoy whatever life has to offer is vividly captured. Hailing from a Pakistani immigrant family herself, director Minhal Baig was able to touch the core of the living experience of the black community during a troubling period of time—in a sense, the universal language of discrimination is read by everyone who became a victim of it. 

Advertisement

Aside from some of the dialogue feeling heavy-handed and clunky, We Grown Now weaves a poignant, emotional account of hard-hitting reality as experienced through the imaginative worldview of two kids. The choice of narrative perspective, cinematography, and sound design makes for a captivating watch and feels like a departure from the trappings of similar movies in the genre.

Spoilers Ahead

Advertisement

Who are Malik and Eric?

Schoolkids Malik and Eric are best of friends and are the youngest members of two black families living in the Cabrini-Green public housing complex in Chicago during the late 1990s. Dolores Johnson is going through a tough time as a single mother while raising her children, Malik and Diana, and taking care of her elderly mother, Anita, at the same time. Anita came to Chicago from their ancestral home in Tupelo, Mississippi, with her husband, Gordon, a long time ago—in order to provide a good life for their daughter—and has settled in this housing complex ever since. Anita laments about the good times, when a sense of togetherness and a familial bond existed among all the members of the community. 

On the other hand, Eric lost his mother at a very young age, and his elder sister Amber has become the maternal presence in his life ever since. Eric looks up to his father, the breadwinner of the family, and tries to impress him in any way he can, only to fall short on most occasions. Since their birth, Malik and Eric have known the housing complex as their entire world; no matter how neglected or looked down upon a locality it is compared to the city of Chicago itself, it is their home. Of the two friends, Malik is more mature; having seen his mother toil for every penny to make ends meet has made him realize the hardships of life. Malik is also the more imaginative one, as he teaches Eric to see the splendor of the night sky in the cracked ceilings of dilapidated rooms in the housing complex. 

Advertisement

One of the favorite pastimes of the two friends and the majority of the kids in the housing complex is to jump on discarded mattresses. The mattresses and empty, dilapidated rooms are symbols of departure, neglect, and decay, as they remind us of a time when people still had some use for them. But the younger generation has been able to find joy amidst these as well, as their spirit is still untainted by the harshness of reality.


Why Did Dolores Decide to Move Out Of the Housing Complex?

The impoverished, neglected, and outright unsafe condition of the community rears its ugly head as Dantrell Davis, a seven-year-old kid, dies near the school premises while returning home with his mother. As a means of increasing security around the housing complex, even kids are denied entry without a proper ID. Dolores is appalled at the double standards of people in power, as the authorities who are pretending to be concerned about the well-being of the community are the same bigots who have neglected the residents’ pleas to provide basic amenities. On one occasion, Eric and Malik decide to skip school and go to the art museum, causing a tense situation in both of their families as a result. Dolores reprimands her son about his irresponsible behavior, sternly reminding him that he might meet the same fate as Dentrall if he maintains such a careless attitude in a time like this. 

Advertisement

During Dentrall’s funeral, Malik and Eric meet again, and the bitterness of reality seems to have crept into Eric’s mind, as contrary to Malik’s belief in the afterlife, he is more disposed to believe in the futility and nothingness that follow death. One night, police forcibly break into Dolores’ apartment and start rummaging around the place on suspicion of narcotics without any warrant. The helpless cries and pleas of Anita and Dolores get buried under the sound of breaking glass and burning curtains. Life as they know it, day by day, becomes difficult to sustain. 

Dolores gets an opportunity for promotion after requesting one, thanks to Anita’s supportive advice, but learns that she has no other option than to move to another city and buy a car for an easier commute if she wishes to accept the promotion. Anita encourages her daughter to grab the opportunity, which, not to mention, is hard to come by for people belonging to their social strata but can also ensure a better future for the children. Dolores still hesitates, believing that her children might not adapt as swiftly to a new life and a new home. Anita gives away her entire savings to her daughter, all the while mentioning how important it is for Dolores to move forward in life to help Malik and Diana grow. Little Malik overhears their entire conversation, and even though he is disheartened, he knows better than to bother her mother about a necessary change. 


What were Eric and Malik’s dreams?

Next time Malik and Eric meet, their conversation reaches the topic of dreams. Eric states that he dreams of his late mother, which makes the experience of reality even more sordid for him. On the other hand, Malik shares his dream of living in a house big enough for him and his family to live as they wish, move as they wish. Malik doesn’t dare to dream bigger, and he kind of envies Malik’s bright-eyed worldview. Anita shares the story of her and Gordon’s arrival in Chicago with her grandson, Malik, and her statement about losing a sense of belongingness speaks volumes about the experience of the marginalized. 


What Secret Did Malik Share With Eric Before Their Farewell?

After cheating in an exam, Eric faces the disappointment of his father, and to make matters even worse, he also learns that Malik and his family are moving. Furious, but more importantly, devastated at the prospect of losing his best friend, Eric lashes out at Malik. Later, during school, Malik writes about his friendship with Eric, which gets read by the latter, and another altercation ensues, which results in Malik getting injured. Remorseful, Eric goes to Malik’s home from time to time to convey his wishes and prayers for his speedy recovery. Eric doesn’t forget to mention to the higher power that Malik should get what he dreams of. 

Advertisement

Eric recovers, and finally the day of departure draws close. Eric hasn’t been able to face his best friend ever since the incident in school, as he fears that Malik is angry at him. Eric’s father advises his son to mend their relationship before Malik departs; the fleeting life waits for none, and if Eric doesn’t utilize whatever time he has left, he might regret it forever. Malik, on the other hand, prepares to leave their apartment, and in a vision sequence, the history of the family gets unveiled inside Malik’s imaginative mind. 

Finally, Malik and Eric meet each other for one last time, and as Malik shares his secret to jump the highest with his best friend, they reconcile at the end. Malik advises Eric to never be afraid of flying, which provides an assessment of the conflicting ideology at work among young minds. Eric had no flair for optimism, which is why he has always restrained himself, remaining reserved and timid enough to not let the future bother him. Malik is fearful, anxious, and concerned about the change and their future, but he welcomes change as a necessary part of life. As a teary-eyed Malik is driven away, Eric frantically runs towards his friend to catch up, but fails. For better or worse, Eric will remain stuck here, while Malik will experience a new world, and the two friends are separated as they grow up, where the movie comes to an end. 

Advertisement

The bittersweet final moments between the two friends, along with Malik’s final advice to Eric, make for an empathetic, genuinely moving conclusion—an exact point when the kids lose their innocence and step into bigger shoes. Malik, like his mother and grandma, is destined to search for a place called home, and Eric feels life calling him by but remains timid enough after getting his fair share of the tribulations of life. 


Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

Latest articles