“We Are Who We Are” Explores the Tragic Beauty of Adolescence


Photograph by Yannis Drakoulidis/HBO Press Release

Jack Dylan Grazer as Fraser and Jordan Kristine Seamón as Caitlin

Being an American teenager during a time of high political tension is quite difficult, and filmmaker Luca Guadagnino captures this journey of adolescence in “We Are Who We Are” by using the same notable techniques which can also be seen in his critically acclaimed movies like “Call Me by Your Name” and “Suspiria.”

Guadagnino’s television debut tells the story of two teenage misfits, Fraser (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Caitlin (Jordan Kristine Seamón), and their tight-knit friendship on an army base in Italy. As these teens grow closer and closer together, they experience both a loss of innocence and a struggle to grasp their true identity; however, what makes “We Are Who We Are” stand out from other teen dramas is the subtle display of teenage chaos.

This promotional poster of “We Are Who We Are” introduces the faces of the teenagers that we follow in the show. (Photograph by Alessio Bolzoni/HBO Press Release)

“The show is about self-discovery and the maze that is life at a young age” – Jack Dylan Grazer

While this show shares similarities to the other teen dramas on HBO like “Euphoria” and “Betty,” Guadgnino reimagines youth culture to be as gritty and rough as the army base in which it takes place. The show is not afraid to make the audience uncomfortable, and this has sparked mass controversy among viewers.

Many believe that “We Are Who We Are” may be too mature to present itself as a teen drama because of its explicit content. Issues have also been raised because both leading actors are minors, yet they are involved in NSFW scenes. One of the episodes’ synopsis even goes as far as to even say that the two teens experience an “evening of debauchery.”

Some admire Luca Guadgnino’s desire to showcase the unfiltered reality of some teens. Through these hard-to-watch scenes, people can witness just how easy it is for young adults to fall into an empty and hedonistic lifestyle in order to avoid their internal struggles. Others also applaud the show’s wide variety of characters that hold different beliefs and come from different backgrounds.

The plot and concept of “We Are Who We Are” might hold varying opinions, but the creative direction is quite unique. While it is common for shows to use heavy dialogue, director Guadgnino focuses on evoking the natural actions and emotions of human beings. Many of the scenes feel organic as if you are merely watching it unfold from only a few feet away. Star actor Jack Dylan Grazer also believes this as he tells Deadline Hollywood, “It’s just spying on lives. You [can] capture it realistically. It’s that type of approach which allowed Oscar-nominated director Luca Guadagnino to document real human interactions and authentic expressions of love.”

It is not yet known if “We Are Who We Are” will return for a second season, but the first season already sheds light on many important and sensitive topics that other shows fear to include. We will now just have to wait to see if Luca Guadagnino will continue to show both the beauty and cruelty of teenage life on HBO.