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We Are Who We Are

By Bradley Lane

Luca Guadagnino has been, in my opinion, the most exciting director working in all of international filmmaking since his 2018 remake of the classic Italian horror film, Suspiria. It was a bold choice to adapt such an enduring and stylistically bold film, but the Italian director took a big swing and made one of the most thought-provoking horror films of the decade. This was preceded by a drastically different film, his breakthrough film in America, 2017’s coming-of-age drama Call Me by Your Name. His staggering range, demonstrated by these two diametrically opposed films, was made even more impressive by how distinguishable his directorial style is between them. Guadagnino’s newest project is an eight-episode miniseries for HBO focused on the relationship between two teenagers on an American military base in Italy.

The principle character, Fraser (Jack Dylan Grazer), is an intelligent and cultured young man that struggles with authority, specifically that of his mother. His mother Sarah (Chloë Sevigny) is an Army colonel sent to replace the command at the base. They move in next to Caitlin (Jordan Kristine) and her family who, quickly after meeting him, forms a unique bond with Fraser that brings both closer while simultaneously pushing their families against one another.

Central to Guadagnino’s directorial style is his obsessive attention to detail within his works. He focuses much less on telling a story with plot points than he does on the miniscule details that make up each location and scene. This leads to two of the strongest qualities of his work: the material world his characters exist in and letting the characters interact naturally.

By focusing on the details of the story’s setting, Guadagnino’s work reflects a world that is tactile and fully realized. A fact that emphasizes this is that he built an entire replica military base in rural Italy for the filming of this miniseries. The detail focused approach makes viewing We Are Who We Are a one-of-a kind experience. His style emulates the way people remember details about specific events in their lives based on individual perception.

However, what most immediately sticks out about We Are Who We Are is the slow pace of the narrative. Whereas other shows might focus on getting from plot point A to plot point B, Guadagnino and his co-writers are focused on moving each character in the show through the plot. The patient pacing of the show makes following each of the layered and complex relationships that much more rewarding and one of my most enjoyable viewing experiences in all of 2020. We Are Who We Are is available to stream on HBO Max. – 4.5/5 stars

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