We Are Who We Are

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Jack Dylan Grazer and Jordan Kristine Seamón in We Are Who We Are.
Jack Dylan Grazer and Jordan Kristine Seamón in We Are Who We Are.
Photo: Showmax


We Are Who We Are




4/5 Stars


We Are Who We Are tells the story of two American teenagers who live on a fictional US military base in Italy in 2016. 


We Are Who We Are feels like summer. Well, pre-pandemic summer: long, languid days spent at the beach, wearing bright coloured clothes, going exploring with your friends. It is a series that feels both visually beautiful and constantly confusing, never revealing too much but always making you feel part of the coolest kids in school.

The series begins with the story of Fraser (Jack Dylan Grazer), a 14-year-old who has arrived in Italy with his two mothers. His mother, Sarah (Chloe Sevigny), is about to take on the role of Colonel at a fictional US military base in Chioggia. Fraser is clearly not happy with moving to Italy, leaving behind his home in New York and his friend Mark. Fraser wanders around, observing the soldiers' lives on the base throughout the first episode until another teenager, Caitlin (Jordan Kristine Seamón), catches his eye as she is reading a poem in class.

The second episode tells the events of the first episode through the eyes of Caitlin. Caitlin is popular, is dating another classmate, Sam (Ben Taylor), who is extremely possessive, and just seems to be having the time of her life on the military base. However, Caitlin is still trying to understand herself. We (along with Fraser) witnesses her dressing in her brother's clothes and going to the local cafe, pretending to be a boy, calling herself Harper and flirting with girls.

We Are Who We Are, as the title suggests, is about identity. But not discovering and finalising your identity as most films and series are, but about being okay in limbo, being okay in the discovery stage, not committing to labels or what anyone expects of you. Throughout the first season, we watch Fraser and Caitlin explore their identity and sexuality, using fashion, music, conversation. But by the end, we cannot say for sure who these characters are; they are who they are. They live in the grey area, and they are in no rush to get out of it. It's perhaps important that they live on a military base, a place that is so rigid and strict because the people who fill the roles on the base are all colouring outside of the lines.

Even the supporting characters are constantly surprising you. Richard, Caitlin's father, played by Scott Mescudi, who is more famously known as rapper Kid Cudi, is Lieutenant Colonel who is opposed to Sarah's institution as the Colonel. Even though he appears misogynistic and aggressive in how he treats his wife and step-son, he is so loving with Caitlin that it caught me by surprise when he pulled out a Make America Great Again red cap supporting Trump. Jenny (Faith Alabi), Caitlin's mother, is every bit the dutiful army wife, but she begins to rebel when she becomes attracted to Fraser's mother, Maggie (Alice Braga). Caitlin's brother, Danny (Spence Moore II), is embracing his Muslim heritage while dealing with very intense feelings for his best friend. And that's only the Poythress family. All the characters in the series are rich, but we still feel as if we've only just scratched the surface of who they are.

The series itself is beautiful. Similarly to creator Luca Guadagnino's previous work like Call Me By Your Name, A Bigger Splash and Suspiria, it was a feast for the eyes. Everything is light, bright, and would work as an Italian tourism advert. The cinematography (done by Fredrik Wenzel, Yorick Le Saux and Massimiliano Kuveiller) and the music (by Devonte Hayes) set the tone of a high-quality series that seems at times as if it's more like a poem or art than a piece of the narrative storyline. After watching the series, I've been listening to Blood Orange nonstop, the artist is featured in and has a cameo in the series, and his music just seems to sum up the series so well that it could have been a companion piece to his album.

The main gripe that I had with the series is that it can be a bit too slow at times. It's difficult to get into in the beginning; the audience feels as if it has been dropped in a middle of a situation and because we don't get explanations about the characters, we don't feel as if we know them. The show is not focused on us seeing ourselves in the characters or becoming invested in them from the outset. We learn about the characters through cues that we pick up as the audience, so you feel more intrigued, wanting to learn more, but if you don't feel that curiosity from the beginning, it is easy to be put off by the first episode.

The series, having been set in 2016 but released in 2020, seems poignant. Both years were big election years, and 2016 seems like a different time. Trump was a threat, but most people did not think he actually had a chance to win the US presidency. At the end of the series, we see the election day and emotionally how that affects Sarah. We, as the audience, know that Trump eventually bans trans people from being able to enter the military, and the first season explores Caitlin's interest in joining the military. Will that cause a rift between Caitlin and her father, who she looks up to in the future?

We Are Who We Are doesn't feel groundbreaking or shocking in the way that other young adult series like Euphoria has, mainly because it does not make any big statements, other than maybe just let people be who they are. It's a treat for your senses and is unlike anything you've seen before, and boasts exceptional performances, especially from the young cast.


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