Two years ago HBO and Sky partnered for the exceptional Italian drama My Brilliant Friend.
More recently they joined forces again for another Italian-based story, We Are Who We Are. Co-created and directed by Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name) this is equally hypnotic, if decidedly different.
Fraser (Jack Dylan Grazer) is the free-spirited 14 year old son to Sarah (Chloe Sevigny) a US Colonel who is relocated to an American Army Base in Venice, Italy with her wife Maggie (Alice Braga). The base is like a slice of the US-of-A in the middle of coastal Italy: full of American troops, their families, a school, supermarket, cinema and more.
For Fraser it means restarting his life after New York but he rails against authority, wears con-conformist fashion, paints his nails, reads poetry, and shuts out the world by immersing himself in headphone music.
Exploring his new home he befriends outspoken local teen Britney (Francesca Scorsese) and her mixed race troupe of friends, including the intriguing Caitlin (Jordan Kristine Seamón). But young Caitlin has her own challenges, including a horny boyfriend and a gender identity secret.
Caitlin’s father (Scott Mescudi) happily encourages her developing path, from hormones to boxing and even a shared admiration of Trump (yes, you read that correctly).
As Fraser and Caitlin are drawn closer through both feeling like outsiders, Sarah becomes base commander, driving a further wedge between mother and son.
“I had a perfect life in New York,” Fraser insists.
“Every moment I am in this place a little piece of me is dying.”
Crafting his first TV series Guadagnino again brings a unique voice and eye to the screen. Somewhat of a slow-burn, this feels like an indie film. There’s plenty of hand held camera use, scenes that feel improvised, and a lilting visual language.
As the neglected, rebellious Fraser, Jack Dylan Grazer is charismatic and complex -with scenes that involve intimacy or even domestic violence. Jordan Kristine Seamón is alluring as Caitlin, showing a maturity beyond her years.
Like his acclaimed recent feature, Guadagnino also has an eye for Italy’s rural landscape… beach, architecture, rustling reeds and fading Italian facades. He contrasts much with a red white and blue square peg in a continental round hole.
This is another sensitive coming-of-age tale from Guadagnino with a title that makes no judgments, and a story that isn’t afraid to challenge.
We Are Who We Are airs 9:30pm Tuesday on SBS VICELAND and all 8 episodes at SBS On Demand.