Julianne Nicholson in ‘Who We Are Now’.

Australian actor Matthew Newton has successfully resurrected his career as a writer-director in the US.

His latest film, Who We Are Now, won rave reviews after premiering in the special presentations section of the Toronto International Film Festival.

Newton shot the New York-based drama, which stars Julianne Nicholson, Emma Roberts, Zachary Quinto and Jimmy Smits, with a 95 per cent female crew.

It is his second collaboration with Nicholson, who starred in From Nowhere, which dealt with the topical issue of the daily lives and anxieties of three high school students who are undocumented immigrants.

That film won the audience award at last year’s SXSW festival in Austin, Texas.

His fourth film as a director, Who We Are Now follows Nicholson as Beth, an ex-con who forms an unlikely alliance with Jess, an idealistic lawyer (Roberts) to regain custody of her young son.

Beth’s sister Gabby (Jess Weixler) and her husband have taken over as the child’s legal guardians and are not convinced she’s ready to share custody.

Variety’s Scott Tobias lauded a “beautiful little film about sacrifice and redemption, and [Newton] earns it one tiny brushstroke at a time.”

As for its commercial prospects, Tobias observed: “Low-concept, modestly scaled indies are always a hard sell, but authentic passion and a steady accumulation of detail sets Who We Are Now apart.”

IndieWire’s David Ehrlich declared, “If there were any justice in this sick sad world, Nicholson’s performance here would earn her all the Oscars.”

He said the film functions both as a close-up character study that explores notions of forgiveness and self-worth with surgical precision and as a devastatingly authentic drama.

“Newton’s film knows that people are always going to be letting themselves (and each other) down, no matter how hard they try, and Nicholson’s unforgettable turn makes it impossible for us to forget it,” he concluded.

According to IndieWire, the producers, No Place Like Films and Oriah Entertainment, are still seeking US distribution. With reviews like that there seems a good chance one or more of the boutique indies will see its potential. There is no word yet of an Australian sale.

In an interview with Deadline.com in Toronto, Newton said: “I love writing for women, I love working with two fabulous, intelligent, wonderful actresses and I’m not just saying that because they’re here—they are, and I really enjoy actually telling female stories.

“I tried to write great roles for women in this movie, and I do think that it’s a really important thing to do. It’s a long time coming. If I’m going to write and direct something I’m going to want to surround myself with as many strong, intelligent women as I can.”