Luca loves his sunshine, doesn’t he?
There is an anxious curiosity to Luca Guadagnino’s sunny coming-of-age series, We Are Who We Are. When you’re young, you are trying to soak up as much information and experience as you can–whether you know it or not–in order to find your own path and place in the world. The son of a military commander finds himself captivated by his new surroundings in We Are Who We Are, and his wayward angst is adorably watchable.
In the first episode of Guadagnino’s series, Chloe Sevigny’s Sarah uproots the lives of her wife, Maggie (a quietly observing Alice Braga) and their son, Fraser (Jack Dylan Grazer) to a base in the middle of an idyllic, Italian seaside town. The base is a city within itself, and Fraser explores everything the moment they arrive. His eyes dart everywhere and he slides through the hustle and bustle almost completely unnoticed.
A small group of teenagers absorb Fraser in the first episode–not necessarily as their friend but simply because he’s the new kid on the block. Fraser watches them as they scamper and play on the beach but he keeps his distance even though he’s clearly fascinated with Caitlin, his new next door neighbor, played by the magnetic Jordan Kristine Seamón.
Guadagnino’s direction is effortless, and the cinematography is just as beautiful as anything shot from Call Me By Your Name, Suspiria, or A Bigger Splash. The sound is particularly incredible. As Jordan strolls around the base and visits the beach, we hear conversations from people just off screen or just out of earshot. It etches more layers on the scenes we watch. The show takes place right before the 2016 Presidential election and that world seems like such a distant memory. When Hillary Clinton popped up on television in the background of a scene, I immediately worried about the young people in We Are Who We Are. These kids are dissecting their own identities and world views, and they have no idea what is ahead of them.
Grazer and Seamón are incredible. Grazer has stolen scenes from It and Shazam! with little effort, but he’s such a bratty live wire in this performance. When he is spending time with his family, Grazer plays Fraser as an animal trapped with all eyes on him. He can be poetic and cruel on the turn of a dime. It’s such a captivating performance, especially in the scenes he shares with Sevigny. I simply had no idea what Fraser was going to do next. When he is alone, he is trying to take in everything he can, his phone at the ready to snap a picture.
Seamón is a brilliant find. The second episode is from her character’s perspective, and it complements the actions of the premiere. The way she stares down the camera is transfixing. Guadagnino could devote an entire episode to her just looking at us through the camera, the wind blowing her hair as we watch her blind, and I wouldn’t be able to tear my eyes away. This is her performance debut. You read that correctly.
We Are What We Are bubbles up emotions of being a teenager so well that you will be thinking of it long after you watch it. You may not be the child of a military commander in beautiful Italy, but you will connect with the feelings of loneliness and self-doubt and the incredible highs of being carefree.
We Are Who We Are airs on HBO starting September 14.