Image courtesy of Variety
By Noélia Veras
We are who we are is a new show on HBO directed by Luca Guadagnino. The show follows a young boy whose family moves to Italy, where they live on a military base. The pilot was released on September 14 on the HBO Max streaming service.
Guadagnino is best known for directing the book in film adaptation Call me by your name that followed a young boy and his love affair with an older man. The film also took place in Italy. In the film, Italy is perhaps a character in itself, being the vehicle for much of the intrigue and romance that begins.
We are who we are is quite similar to Call me by your name in that Italy plays an important role in the development of the story and the plot. The show follows a young boy and his two mothers as they navigate their new life in Italy while staying in this very American space. The military base is quite American by convention. On the base, people wear either American military uniforms or, if they are not soldiers, clothes that follow American trends.
Ultimately, Italy cradles this base, forcing these characters to interact with the Italian culture and landscape.
The opening stroke of We are who we are introduces the audience to the main character, Fraser, who is played by Jack Dylan Grazer. He’s the typical eclectic-style teenager. His fingernails are painted black and yellow as he wears loose animal print pants and an orange hoodie. Later, the public learns that Fraser is listless, obsessed with astrology, and still has his headphones in his ears.
Fraser’s mothers Sarah and Maggie, played by Chloe Sevigny and Alice Braga respectively, have both a complicated relationship with each other and with Fraser. Sarah is Fraser’s biological mother and throughout the pilot they face multiple disagreements and Fraser even slaps her at one point. Maggie and Fraser have a more friendly relationship; she heals an injury he receives after falling on a bridge in the pilot and wipes a blood stain from his shirt. Where Sarah and Fraser are the image of tumultuous waters Maggie and Fraser are the image of a still ocean.
The show captures stories beyond Fraser and his family, featuring a set of friends. In the first episode, Fraser follows a group of friends that includes a girl who particularly fascinates him named Caitlin. The girl who ends up befriending him first in this group is called Jennifer and serves as his guide around the base and parts of Italy.
The show presents the deep desperation and angst of being a teenager in 2020. It shows the etched pain of being torn from his life and moved to this rare and unique experience that is both Italian and American.
After the pilot on HBO, the creators and cast of the series discuss the making of the episode and the major themes the series will continue to explore. The director spoke about the relationship between the base and the outside world at the base.
“I like this friction between the outside and the inside,” Guadagnino said. “And I like to see some kind of experience of America within the confines of a small community like that.”
Interestingly enough, Fraser is both sure and insecure about his personality, his sexuality, and his relationships. His insecurities stem from this very vulnerable situation he finds himself in: living in this completely different world while also being in a very formative part of his life. Fraser is originally from New York City, possibly the most American experience one can have, and now finds himself in this place characterized by being part of a different culture and lifestyle. He is consumed by his own world, but these forces continue to pull him to open his eyes and soak up this new place. As Fraser tries to resist coming to terms with this new reality, it is impossible to do so completely. Italy is all around him, the breath on his neck, the Italian coast lapping at his feet, an old couple offering him a glass of wine by the side of the street, and the landscape opening up to him and inviting him. to enter. He may not avoid it, no matter how badly he wants to.
Overall, the first two episodes of this series present a deep dive into the life of a teenager and the elements that surround it. So far, the broad themes of cultural integration, family conflicts, rejection and exploration of sexuality have already been established. New episodes of We are who we are airs every Monday at 10 p.m. EST on HBO Max.