‘We Are Who We Are’: The quest for identity in an “America” away from America

Immersing us into the messy and electrifying ups-and-downs of young adulthood, “Call Me by Your Name” director Luca Guadagnino understands a thing or two about coming-of-age stories. His newest work, “We Are Who We Are” is an HBO drama series that follows the unlikely friendship of two teenagers on an American Military base in Chioggia, Italy.

Guadagnino provides viewers with a voyeuristic glimpse into the lives of Fraser Wilson (played by Jack Dylan Grazer) and Caitlin Poythress (played by Jordan Kristine Seamón) as the two navigate the mundane reality of living in an “America” away from America. The secluded and sun-drenched environment encapsulates the daily lives of the teens, allowing for the blending of backgrounds, ethnicities and sexualties.

Fraser is a 14-year-old boy brimming with a turbulent and twitchy energy to match his unruly bleached-blonde hair, painted nails and obsession with designer clothing. His arrival from New York City brings with him an upheaval in the well-established dynamic of Caitlin and her friend group.

Despite outwardly appearing as opposites, Fraser recognizes a building sense of similarity with Caitlin when he spots her at a nearby cafe. Donning her dad’s ill-fitting button down and a baseball cap covering her long locks, Caitlin creates her persona, “Harper” while flirting with a local Italian girl.

Jordan Kristine Seamón and Jack Dylan Grazer in episode eight of "We are W Right Here Right Now VIII and Last (2020)
Jordan Kristine Seamón and Jack Dylan Grazer in episode eight of "We Are Who We Are," titled "Right Here Right Now VIII and Last." Photo credit: imdb.com

Struck by this moment, Fraser leaves Caitlin an offering of friendship – a pair of his jeans and a polo shirt-presumably better fitting than her baggy, borrowed clothes. The two quickly become each other’s confidants and together push the boundaries of self identity and sexuality.

As the suffocating summer heat seeps into the lives and friendships of the pair, viewers are immersed into their first encounters of love and lust. The lapses of dialogue create an almost dream-like state of calm that feels as if we are right beside them.

“You’ve never kissed anyone before, have you?”

Caitlin’s words echo through the silence of the opening scene of episode three. Taking his time to respond, Fraser likens his inexperience to a disdain for the fleeting nature of romantic relationships.

“I’m looking for stuff that means something.”

His response is a testament to what it means to find your identity while growing up in the extensively global 21st century. Fast fashion, fast food, and as Fraser put it, fast feelings, all cloud our perception of each other and the world around us.

Unapologetically being who we are proves to be the only freeing means of survival.