Julianne Nicholson (I, Tonya, August, Osage County, HBO’s Boardwalk Empire) delivers a career-defining performance as an ex-con fighting for custody of her son while putting her life back together in Who We Are Now. Supported by an exceptional ensemble cast including Emma Roberts, Zachary Quinto, Jimmy Smits, Jess Weixler, Jason Biggs and Lea Thompson, veteran performer Nicholson is more than equal to the challenge of anchoring the piece and infusing her volatile, borderline alcoholic single mother Beth with a world-weary dignity that commands respect despite her flair for reactive confrontation. Australian director Matthew Newton does well to stay out of the way with minimal stylistic embellishment and a loose, handheld aesthetic perfectly suited for responding in real time to the performance choices of a seasoned and locked-in group of professionals in front of the camera.

Beth explores her custody options with the help of idealistic young lawyer Jess (Roberts), and in the process falls into a romantic fling with a traumatized former soldier (Zachary Quinto) who’s a regular at the same divey Brooklyn bar she frequents. Truly an actor’s film, Who We Are Now resonated with audiences and critics alike at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it had its world premiere last fall.

–Christopher Holmes