My career in journalism has allowed me to interview a lot of people I greatly admire. One of the stranger moments of my unabashed fandom came at the end of a wonderful phone interview with Miranda July, at which point I asked her to tell her husband I loved him.

My career in journalism has allowed me to interview a lot of people I greatly admire. One of the stranger moments of my unabashed fandom came at the end of a wonderful phone interview with Miranda July, at which point I asked her to tell her husband I loved him.

I'll admit, it was not a moment of great journalistic professionalism, but I was on the phone with July, herself responsible for one of my favorite movies (2005's “Me and You and Everyone We Know”), so I felt I had to acknowledge her husband Mike Mills, who made another favorite (2011's “Beginners”).

Mills' follow up to “Beginners” is another warmly original film as quirky as it is heartfelt.

Set in Santa Monica in 1979, “20th Century Women” centers on single mother Dorothea (Annette Bening) and her edge-of-teen-rebellion son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann).

Dorothea runs a boarding house and looks to her younger tenants to provide a diverse base of role models. There's Abbie (Greta Gerwig), a burgeoning photographer who's deep in the punk scene, William (Billy Crudup), an understanding handyman who offers more than just fixing things around the house, and Julie (Elle Fanning), Jamie's best friend for whom he harbors a not-too-secret crush.

It turns out Jamie isn't the only one going through a time of change in his life.

Jamie may be the central figure connecting these characters, but Mills' magnificently rounded female characters are, as the title indicates, what the film is about. It shouldn't be noteworthy that a male screenwriter can create female characters that feel like fully formed human beings. Unfortunately, it is, and Mills does a superb job with all his characters.

His late '70s setting is wrapped in a complicated sense of nostalgia, most notably in Jamie's introduction to early So-Cal punk via Abbie. It's obviously another aspect of the film close to the director's heart.

Bening gives one of the best performances in a career of great performances as a mother trying to raise a feminist son and realizing her own limitations. Her motherly advice to her son is steeped in wisdom, even as she struggles not to lose it in the translation.

The rest of the cast is nearly as good, notably Gerwig in a role that is both in her wheelhouse and outside her comfort zone.

Mills displays a deep admiration for the women in his life, and it translates into another great film.