October 22, 2020

CABLE | 'We Are Who We Are' Comes of Age on HBO

"How can a fashion victim from New York understand you?"
Jack Dylan Grazer Jordan Kristine Seamón | Luca Guadagnino's We Are Who We Are on HBO
Sky Studios
HBO’s new Italian-American miniseries has a youthful, intoxicating glow. Full of casual coming-of-age sexuality and adolescent gender expression, We Are Who We Are poetically captures the interiority of its teenage expatriate characters living abroad on a US army base in picturesque Italy during the tumultuous 2016 presidential election.

Deliberately-paced and initially unfolding over different perspectives, we slowly gather the inner motivations and identities of the various teenagers through their interactions. It's a beautifully rendered slice of life tale that expands on the ideas first expressed in co-creator Luca Guadagnino (who directed all eight episodes) similarly themed film adaptation of Call Me by Your Name with its idyllic sense of dangerous, forbidden love and burgeoning sexuality.

Starring Jack Dylan Grazer (who's reminiscent of a more tortured, younger version of Elio) and entrancing Jordan Kristine Seamón as Fraser and Caitlyn/Harper as two young teens discovering elements of their personal freedom of desire and sense of urgency, the poetic teen drama somehow manages to express so much about its characters soulfully and artfully while creating a microcosm of American values.

Jack Dylan Grazer Jordan Kristine Seamón | Luca Guadagnino's We Are Who We Are on HBO

Theirs is a friendship bucking convention unseen before with a strong bond of understanding through their alternative inner selves amongst the conservative, controlled environment situated in the middle of a more open European culture. It's the crux of the miniseries' truly captivating relationships that feel hyper-intensified yet subdued through emotions due to the close intermingling of the army hierarchy culture with their teenage offspring in tow.

Co-creators Paolo Giordano, Francesca Manieri, and Guadagnino populate the electric cast of young adult actors, including an absolutely alluring Francesca Scorsese (daughter of Martin), with low-key but bracing performances from veterans Chloë Sevigny and Alice Braga as Fraser's intriguing lesbian parents with Scott Mescudi and Faith Alabi as their troubled, mismatched pairing of Caitlyn's parents opposing them in an intertwined manner as their neighbours and subjects.

Guadagnino's sun-kissed television series certainly recalls strong shades of Call Me by Your Name's hypnotical poeticism. Although We Are Who We Are has a decidedly more American feel from its cast and characters, the European flair and mood amidst an artificial location placed around another picturesque Italian surrounding maximize its contrast of true sexual and gender expression.

We Are Who We Are currently airs Monday nights on HBO and is available to stream on Crave.


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