We Are Who We Are [Review]

I first heard of Luca Guadagnino with 2016’s A Bigger Splash, a film that has been on my radar but still sadly hasn’t seen (will fix soon). His next two films hit me like bricks – Call Me By Your Name and Suspiria (the remake is the superior version, and I will die on this hill). Since Call Me By Your Name, Luca’s name has been everywhere including a Lord of The Flies adaptation, and also the Scarface film that the Coen Bros wrote. On top of that, he also co-wrote and directed 8 episodes for HBO. I’ve seen four of the eight episodes, and I am absolutely head over heels for his latest project.

We Are Who We Are follows Fraser Wilson (Jack Dylan Glazer) as he moves to an American military base in Italy with his two mothers. While he’s there, he meets Caitlin (or Harper) Poythress (Jordan Kristine Seamón). What took me by surprise is how much silence fills the room in the first two episodes, each following our two leads. And even though, these moments are filled with silence, we relish and live in every moment. Every boring, mundane bus trip or stalking sequence somehow feels joyful, especially when you’re surrounded by the pure beauty that is found in Italy.

Following in the footsteps of Call Me By Your Name, the soundtrack for the show is incredible. Including tracks by Kanye West, Chance the Rapper, just like the military base they’re on, the show tries its best to make you think we’re in America.

We Are Who We Are feels more like an 8-hour film then a series, and as I’m only halfway through, I’m not sure if I’d be interested in a second series (or film). I’m not entirely sure what is left up their sleeves (while I have a small clue due to trailers), but I don’t know how everything will fall out. And I’m both excited and scared at what might happen next.

Since Jack Dylan Glazer first appeared on It, he’s been someone to watch out for, a sure-fire star in the making. And Fraser feels like the appropriate next step for the actor that made Eddie Kaspbrak come to life so eloquently because his performance as Fraser is both a joy, and terrifying to watch. Jack finds a way to balance that very fine tightrope, that it’s only moments after that you might find Fraser’s behaviour to be either toxic or problematic, but there are reasons for his actions. And then there’s Jordan as Caitlin. Jordan brings so much to the quiet, and tentative Caitlin. Clearly, as Caitlin, Jordan seems lost in her own mind, not entirely sure of everything. But as Harper, Jordan oozes confidence and strength. In Jordan’s first role, she owns the screen. Between her and Jack, they go back and forth between sharing the screen. We always know who we should be watching during their great scenes together.

I care deeply for Fraser and Harper, and their friendship. A moment in the third episode was so incredibly sweet that I was moved to tears. It’s an utter joy to witness their friendship bloom as they slowly understand each other, and themselves. In some of the episodes, there’s a moment in which we’d see a freeze-frame, and it would always be during a moment that is filled with joy. Maybe a reminder of all the good times they might have before a sadder ending, or maybe it’s as if the film is reminiscing and wanting us to acknowledge how important this moment may be. It allows us to think about our own past, our own picture-perfect memories that we wish we can return to just for a second longer. The late drunken nights with friends, or a rowdy game of paintball, or even just the silence on a bus as everyone commutes together. 

At the time of writing this and only having seen half of the show, it’s worth mentioning that the parents of both Caitlin and Fraser are both great and underused. Some of the drama and fallout may come from them during the second half. Including Richard (Scott Mescudi) who is a Black man in the military that also dons a Make America Great Again hat. As well as Sarah (Chloë Sevigny) and Maggie’s (Alice Braga) relationship in the future. There is a lot still left to unpack in some of the characters that can be found on the peripheral.

When Euphoria was released, it took everyone and everything by storm. It was a story geared towards how scary being a teenager can be, and even if it was a bit extreme to many, it still felt authentic. We Are Who We Are feels just as authentic, but to a more specific group of people, but just as broad. People who feel lost, and unsure of who they are and where they’re going. I’ll admit, I didn’t clue in until Arianne pointed it out but, each episode is titled “Right Here Right Now” and they’re each numbered 1-4 (and eventually, 5-8). By doing so, it gives us the full title of We Are Who We Are Right Here Right Now. And that becomes such a better and more appropriate title for the project. It speaks to the lost souls who are the teenagers we are watching grow on screen, but it speaks to us, the audience at home. Something I’ve always loved about coming-of-age films is this underlying reassurance of not being alone. While every experience is different, everyone struggles with understanding themselves and where they go, and sometimes, it’s absolutely okay to feel lost. The next step is not set in stone, and we can try to be afraid of it, or we can relish in the fact that it’s up to us to be true to ourselves. We are who we are, right here, right now. And that’s good.