We Are Who We Are
HBO, Mondays at 10 p.m.
Sep 15, 2020
We Are Who We Are is the TV series debut of Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino. It strikes similar artistic tones to the famed Italian auteur’s previous work, while finding its own voice. Filled with teen angst, turbulent friendships, and constant familial troubles; HBO’s new miniseries uses the unique location of an American military base in the seaside town of Chioggia, Italy. This juxtaposes the story of a group of friends, offspring of the military families, trying to define who they are with a place where conformity is always emphasized.
Set in 2016, the series follows teenagers Fraser (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Caitlin (Jordan Kristine Seamón) as the two navigate their homes in a foreign country, strained relationships with family, the friend group they are a part of, and how to cope with their personal secrets.
We Are Who We Are takes a little too much time to find its footing. The first few episodes, which are dedicated to world and character building, suffer from lack of pacing. With the show’s abrupt transitions from scene to scene, Guadagnino doesn’t spend enough time explaining the characters’ motivations. This is particularly an issue in the series’ pilot, where viewers are introduced to both Fraser’s complicated psyche and the vast American-Italian cultural divide. Because each situation unfolds at such a rapid and haphazard pace, Fraser is portrayed in a way that doesn’t capture who he really is. It is only in the subsequent episodes, which move at a more measured speed, that characters begin to feel like individuals instead of a collection of stereotypical teenage emotions.
Guadagnino often lingers on specific events rather than following a linear plot, choosing perspective over narrative. We Are Who We Are’s scope is almost too expansive, but Guadagnino’s gentle direction and subdued script help the audience build a connection to the characters. This is most evident in the third episode of the series, where events are seen through Fraser’s and Caitlin’s separate points of view, respectively.
Grazer’s bold and dramatic performance and Seamón’s subtle yet nuanced one are the focus of the series. The real magic, however, lies in the chemistry between the entire cast, particularly their group of friends. The fourth episode is dedicated to the exploration of the complex relationships between the friend group, which is bilingual, international, and young. Once viewers have developed a connection with this trifecta that binds the eclectic characters, it becomes impossible to detach from We Are Who We Are.
The actors’ performances and series’ direction focused on the central concept of community and finding the people that make you feel the most like yourself makes We Are Who We Are wildly engaging and impossible to look away from. (www.hbo.com/we-are-who-we-are)
Author rating: 7/10