We Are Who We Are 2020 Tv Show Review
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It is impossible to watch We Are Who We Are, the new HBO series from filmmaker Luca Guadagnino, without being reminded from time to time of Guadagnino’s film Call Me by Your Name. Like that movie, We Are Who We Are is a coming-of-age story set in Italy. Like Call Me by Your Name, the cable drama focuses on characters exploring their sexual identities. While We Are Who We Are does not contain any scenes that center on peaches, it does include a moment in which two women thrust their hands into a freshly baked apple pie. Armie Hammer does not dance to a Psychedelic Furs song in this series, but Caitlin (Jordan Kristine Seamón), one of the show’s teen protagonists, does sway sensually to a cover of Laura Branigan’s “Self-Control.”
Despite these common denominators, We Are Who We Are establishes itself as a different animal, in large part because of its medium. Guadagnino, who created, co-wrote, and directed the series, has eight episodes across which he can drape his narrative, and he embraces the notion of taking his time. We Are Who We Are, debuting Monday night, is a series that you want to keep watching not out of curiosity to find out what happens next, but because of the environment in which it unfolds. Guadagnino places his camera in the spaces shared by Army brats living on a military base in Chioggia, Italy, and just lets these kids be. Watching it is akin to being a fly on the wall in a hyperspecific setting, assuming you are a fly who happens to be a gifted cinematographer.
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We Are Who We Are is gorgeously photographed and obsessive in its attention to detail. Guadagnino is drawn to the messes people make and don’t bother to clean up, both literally and emotionally. In the fourth episode, which focuses on a celebration that stretches from day to deep into the night, Guadagnino pauses on empty beer bottles, remnants of cooked spaghetti, and PlayStation controllers tossed aside and still faintly aglow to capture the mood of a party that’s gone on a little too long. The relationships, particularly between parents and children, ebb and flow in a similar fashion; at times they are vital, but they can quickly turn into something fatiguing.
The series opens as Fraser (Jack Dylan Grazer of It and Shazam!), and his two mothers, Sarah (Chloë Sevigny) and Maggie (Alice Braga), arrive in Italy, where Sarah is set to serve as the new commander on the aforementioned Army base. Fraser is immediately agitated because a piece of his luggage is missing, but it becomes clear pretty quickly that intensity is his default setting. With his bleached-blond mop of curls and baggy leopard-print pants, Fraser would stand out in a crowd no matter what. But Grazer infuses the boy with a constant itchiness that makes it impossible to take your eyes off of him.
His relationship with Sarah, his birth mother, is dysfunctional and fraught; at times he has an infantile desire to seek comfort from her, and at others, his resentment borders on violent. Sarah may be a military leader, but as a mom she is needy and extremely permissive.