With films like Call Me By Your Name, A Bigger Splash, I Am Love and the 2018 remake of Suspiria (to name but a few), Luca Guadagnino is quickly becoming one of the most consistently excellent filmmakers working today. 2020 brought a career milestone for the 49-year-old Sicilian in the form of his television debut, an eight-episode limited series for HBO titled We Are Who We Are. And this lyrical and understated drama might just be one of the finest things Guadagnino has done yet.
Fraser (Shazam and It’s Jack Dylan Grazer) is a self-indulgent and moody teen who must leave his New York lifestyle when his colonel mother (Chloë Sevigny) and her wife (Alice Braga) bring him to live within the confines of a US military base in Italy. As he makes friends with the other disenchanted youth of the base, he navigates the messy and confusing years of adolescence. This slow-burning and intimate drama doesn’t even remotely rush as it deals with complex themes of gender fluidity, sexuality and coming-of-age. The title reinforces its theme of self-acceptance, but there are no easy answers in We Are Who We Are. Much like the years in one’s life it portrays, it is difficult to comprehend and full of topsy-turvy feelings. There are long, slow passages where seemingly nothing happens and the at times non-existent narrative structure flounders. But there is a lot of tenderness in proceedings that give way to an experience that is inspiring and ultimately full of love.
The performances across the board are absolutely magnificent, with the two leads – Grazer and newcomer Jordan Kristine Seamón – both particular revelations. The well-observed and perfectly realised characters of Fraser and Caitlin are flawlessly portrayed, and incredibly layered thanks to the beautiful writing by Guadagnino, Paolo Giordano and Francesca Manieri which serves as the most accurate portrayal of self-discovery captured on film in some time. But arguably the main character here, as it was with Call Me By Your Name, is the gorgeous Italian setting. The cinematography by Fredrik Wenzel, Yorick Le Saux and Massimiliano Kuveiller transports the viewer to the sun-kissed locales and give the show its identity.
We Are Who We Are is another win for Luca Guadagnino. This tender and heartfelt coming-of-age slice of life offers a beautiful, poetic and downright unforgettable 8 hours of television bliss