Luca Guadagnino’s HBO Sequence We Are Who We Are Off to a Wonderful Begin

Luca Guadagnino’s HBO Series We Are Who We Are Off to a Glorious Start

“It was throughout this sorrow that love got here to me. Dwell nonetheless, I’m life. […] I’m the god that comes down from the heavens, and makes of the Earth a heaven. I’m love!”

These lyrics from Umberto Giordano’s basic aria, “La mamma morta,” as translated by an AIDS-stricken lawyer (Tom Hanks) in Jonathan Demme’s “Philadelphia,” make solely a fleeting cameo in Luca Guadagnino’s “I Am Love,” although the tune is referenced in its very title. This scene from the 1993 drama, which deservedly earned Hanks his first Oscar, is glimpsed on the bed room tv of Emma (Tilda Swinton), the Russian spouse of a rich Milanese businessman. 

Simply as Hanks’ character was shunned by former colleagues due to his homosexuality, Emma’s daughter is for certain that the remainder of her patriarchal household received’t be accepting of her burgeoning id as a lesbian. She does, nevertheless, speak in confidence to her mom, and this revelation sparks a newfound consciousness in Emma of how her assigned function as a dutiful Italian spouse runs in direct battle along with her primal ardour. The exhilaration that registers on Emma’s face as she finds herself falling head over heels for a younger chef reverberates by way of each body of Guadagnino’s new HBO collection, “We Are Who We Are,” an eight-part opus that’s assured to face as an important work within the director’s oeuvre.

Premiering a full decade after the U.S. launch of “I Am Love,” “We Are Who We Are” not solely channels the fashion and tone of that cinematic masterwork, it additionally shares the filmmaker’s signature theme of outsiders solid adrift in an inflexible setting who should come to phrases with their actual selves. Although solely the primary 4 episodes have been made out there to press for assessment functions, it seems that every hour is handled as a standalone motion in a bigger symphony, with no less than the preliminary half of them bestowed with the subtitle, “Proper Right here Proper Now.” 

It’s no thriller why HBO would discover Guadagnino to be a great candidate to helm a taboo-busting epic revolving round adolescents, contemplating his success with 2017’s equally rapturous “Name Me By Your Identify.” Viewers who flocked to the community’s current boundary-pushing hit, “Euphoria,” which featured gender-balanced nudity and a younger ensemble that defied stereotypes, received’t hesitate in embracing this present as effectively, although its pacing is far much less frenetic. It’s a pleasure to look at Guadagnino and editor Mario Costa (“Suspiria”) take time, notably within the first two episodes, to luxuriate within the small, usually unarticulated particulars that may usually be truncated had the sprawling narrative been squeezed right into a function.

The primary face we see is that of highschool freshman Fraser (Jack Dylan Grazer, the motormouthed scene-stealer from “Shazam!”), as he demonstrates his penchant for blotting out the murky voices of adults along with his earbuds. In broad strokes, he resembles Timothée Chalamet’s protagonist from “Name Me By Your Identify” in his wiry physique and verbal eloquence punctuated by phrases like “copacetic.” His preoccupation with “Threshold,” the opening poem in Ocean Vuong’s acclaimed compilation, Night time Sky With Exit Wounds, is hanging, because it appears to copy the expertise he had of stumbling right into a bathe room. 

Newly arrived on an American military base in Italy, the place his mom Sarah (Chloë Sevigny) has been tasked with changing its colonel, Fraser wastes no time in exploring the grounds till he comes upon a gaggle of males showering collectively. He locks eyes with Jonathan (Tom Mercier, the delightfully uninhibited star of Nadav Lapid’s galvanizing “Synonyms”), a soldier and fellow Vuong fanatic, who’s amused by the boy’s lingering gaze and makes no try at protecting the item of curiosity. Not one of the different children Fraser’s age on the bottom set off his curiosity with the identical degree of depth—with the one main exception of Caitlin (great newcomer Jordan Kristine Seamón), a scholar who he finds studying aloud a love poem at school. 

If this have been an extraordinary coming of age collection, the meticulous build-up to Fraser and Caitlin’s first substantial dialog would result in romance, which is exactly how their friends misread the bond that’s cast between them. As soon as the story flips again in time to view the occasions in episode one from Caitlin’s perspective, we notice there are much more layers to her than might have met the attention. Her tendency to decorate in boyish apparel causes onlookers to mistake her for male (in these instances, she goes by the identify Harper), and although even the press notes check with her with feminine pronouns, her true id has but to be totally decided. Whereas Fraser’s contempt for his mom and bitterness at having been uprooted from his dwelling within the states erupts in horrifying violence, Caitlin proves to have an equally bruising dynamic along with her father, Richard (Child Cudi), and never simply in a bodily sense (although her playful try and spar with him leads to her getting slugged). 

With the 2020 presidential election on the approaching horizon, the selection to set “We Are Who We Are” on the precipice of Trump’s 2016 victory is particularly charged. An outside screening of a baseball sport is disrupted by a blaring Trump advert by which the presidential candidate requires a Muslim journey ban. It’s not lengthy after that when Richard excitedly invitations Caitlin to strive on his newly bought MAGA hat, which his daughter’s hair makes troublesome to safe on her head, as if out of protest. Richard is a loving father in some ways, although when he encourages Caitlin to unfold her wings and fly, he doesn’t perceive all that such a press release entails. It stays to be seen whether or not the president’s transgender navy ban will issue into future episodes.

It’s within the third and finest episode screened for critics that Guadagnino’s present really emerges as a chic ensemble piece, and casting director Carmen Cuba (“Stranger Issues,” “Mrs. America”) have to be credited for the outstanding array of expertise that holds our fascination, whilst the main target shifts from our central duo. Among the many standouts is Francesca Scorsese, daughter of Martin, who repeatedly threatens to steal every of her scenes as Britney, an exuberantly flirtatious lady who asks guys to “stroll” for her, so she will be able to decide whether or not or not they’re well-hung. Spence Moore II additionally makes an indelible impression as Caitlin’s god-fearing brother, Danny, who might or might not have repressed emotions for his shut buddy, Craig (Corey Knight), which is usually recommended as they stare at each other in a chronic, excessive close-up. 

Whereas Richard bristles at having his navy unit be commanded by Sarah just because she’s a lesbian, his spouse, Jenny (Religion Alabi), makes quick associates with Sarah’s associate, Maggie (a luminous Alice Braga). As they stroll collectively on a detour from the night time’s crowded annual festivities, Jenny reveals that she used to establish as Islamic. After marrying Richard, she explains, “I finished being plenty of issues,” a piercing statement that affirms how her soul is aligned with that of Emma’s in “I Am Love.”

One other staple of Guadagnino’s finest work is music brimming with anticipation that mirrors a personality’s journey of self-discovery, and the unique rating by Devonté Hynes—coupled with an impeccably curated soundtrack—doesn’t disappoint. Grasp cinematographer Fredrik Wenzel (“The Sq.”) could also be the actual star of episode 4, as his immersive imagery is taken to a different degree as soon as the anarchic teenagers descend upon a vacant villa to rejoice the impromptu marriage of Craig to his girlfriend Valentina (Beatrice Barichella), earlier than he should report for obligation the subsequent morning. A monitoring shot following a bag of Ruffles as it’s handed alongside between the friends exemplifies how Fraser has been accepted as a member of the group, whereas one other finds the youngsters’ inebriated hysteria reaching a fever pitch, till the scene abruptly cuts to later within the night time. 

Caitlin and Fraser change into a bit misplaced within the shuffle right here, partially as a result of they’re extra sexually inexperienced than their friends (Seamón’s bemused response to her character’s first tampon is priceless). Fraser ultimately admits {that a} mirror is the one factor he’s kissed in his life, however when an infatuated lady Sole (Vittoria Bottin) crops one on the boy, prompting him to return the favor, Caitlin pointedly tells him by no means to try this once more. When he argues that simply because his mother and father occur to be homosexual doesn’t imply he’s, she thoughtfully counters, “You don’t must not be homosexual both.” 

What I’m trying ahead to, above all, within the second half of this collection are scenes that ship additional on the promise of a pivotal second in episode three, the place Fraser and Caitlin seek for details about transgender id on their smartphones, as their fingers scroll throughout the lens (“It’s like a fucking revolution happening within you!” he exclaims). It doesn’t matter what your age, these characters effortlessly function avatars for any viewers member awakening to the notion that sexuality exists on a spectrum and can’t be confined in patriarchal gender roles, the very variety that the present administration hatefully prioritizes. “We Are Who We Are” is a wonderful feast for the senses and a tonic for the soul that goals to maintain viewers heat as we plunge into an unsure fall.

First 4 episodes screened for assessment. The collection premieres tonight, September 14th, at 9pm CT on HBO.