Television has had an interesting change of pace in the last decade. There’s a new style in series that blurs the lines between the quality of television and the quality of a film, but spans across a multitude of channels and streaming services. Series like “Mr. Robot,” “Euphoria” and “Breaking Bad,” among others, present themselves as more than their worth. However, there can be instances where an acclaimed filmmaker will go from film to television, to keep up with modern culture. Series like “Twin Peaks,” “Mindhunter,” “The Knick” and “Too Old to Die Young” all prove that some filmmakers can handle the change from the silver screen to the small screen. Coming off the heels of the masterpieces that are 2017’s “Call Me By Your Name” and 2018’s horror remake, “Suspiria,” indie filmmaker Luca Guadagnino returns, but this time in a mini series titled “We Are Who We Are.”
This eight-episode HBO series stars Jack Dylan Grazer, Jordan Kristine Seamon, Chloë Sevigny, Francesca Scorsese and Kid Cudi (yes, you heard that correctly). The series tells the story of Fraser, a teen whose family has to move to Italy after getting stationed there due to his mom’s job in the military. Once there, he meets new friends and starts to grow, feeling things he never has before. Personally, I am a bit mixed on Guadagnino as a filmmaker. I absolutely adore his “Suspiria” remake, claiming it to be my favorite film of 2018–a comfort film for me. I think “Call Me By Your Name” is great, but he is the type of person that I would call pretentious. Going into this, I was expecting a “Call Me By Your Name” type of narrative, but expanded into a series format. What I was not expecting was how emotionally gripping, heartfelt and wonderfully executed this series is!
The series is a slower pace for Guadagnino, as he allows each hour-long episode as a chance for the audience to empathize with the characters and take in the scenery around them. The series is not focused on plot, but character development and the emotions that brings. The themes of grief, heartbreak, loneliness and melancholy all take center stage here. Grazer and Seamon are excellent, both displaying an activating range in their performances. I honestly see Kid Cudi’s performance as possible Emmy-winning material.
What’s interesting about this series is that much of our knowledge about the characters is just implied, rather than incorporated into dialogue or explicitly told. Some characters have mental illnesses, but it’s up to the audience to discover all the intricacies of what they’re made up of.
The cinematography is reminiscent of “Call Me By Your Name,” with beautiful and cozy environments that beg the audience to place themselves in the eyes of the characters. What I love about this series is its writing, rather than it being obvious about who wrote this series, it does not feel like it was written by a 40-or-50-year-old man. Guadagnino understands the ups and downs of adolescence in the technology era, when social media places complicates the self-esteem of our youth and we must look up to the ones that raise us and the people surrounding us to show us new life lessons. It is something I think Guadagnino does exceptionally well, and even better in this work than his better known “Call Me By Your Name.”
“We Are Who We Are” came out of left field and was a knockout mini-series from. It is Guadagnino’s most mature and emotionally devastating project. It is one of his bests. Sure, the series starts off slow, but it gradually picks up and you never want it to end. As stated before, the acting by the two leads is sensational, the cinematography is wonderful and the themes are well presented, yet subtle. To sum things up, “We Are Who We Are” is an astounding achievement in storytelling and pushes boundaries for television. I think this work will be talked about for years to come.