“So what should I call you…?”
Nothing is black and white in Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino’s intimate coming-of-age tale We Are Who We Are. It is a story of teenage longing and self-discovery in the midst of strange family dynamics, shifting identities, military culture, and American politics with protagonists Frazier (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Caitlin, sometimes Harper (Jordan Kristine Seamón), set on a U.S. military base in Italy. The HBO series is a beautiful portrayal of adolescent impulses and the messiness inherent to human existence.
The usual military base dynamic is turned upside down when Frazier’s mother, in a committed lesbian marriage, becomes the military commander. The once narrow environment must adjust with this clash of a leading queer female in a heteromasculine world. Guadagnino juxtaposes this military culture of discipline and boundaries with Frazier’s fluid character, who deviates from societal conventions and follows his instincts with gritty drunken nights and gender defying clothes. His black and yellow painted nails, cheetah print shorts, and bleached blonde hair exhibit his desire to stand out against the backdrop of structure.
Unlike Frazier, who unapologetically embraces his eccentricities, Caitlin lives with the burden of duality: to the world she presents a facade of femininity, but within she longs to experiment with her masculinity. While she blurs the barriers of her gender identity, secretly dressing androgynously outside the military base, her conservative father Richard (played by rapper-actor Kid Cudi) dons a “Make America Great Again ” hat. Caitlin and Frazier’s unconscious gravitation as outcasts in their turbulent home lives and traditionally insular atmosphere allows them to accept and embrace the revolution within instead of silencing their internal calls for change.
Frazier and Caitlin represent the enigma of Generation Z adolescence as bodies for the disruption of societal constructs. Viewers, while immersing themselves in the picturesque Mediterranean landscape, in a sense have a confrontation with themselves. We all, as humans, want to wade in the tide of the unknown, undulate along the waves of our intuition, and send ripples through the status quo. It is an uplifting story with authentic adolescent perspectives with which to resonate.
Last year, HBO’s stylized teen drama Euphoria tried to capture this same sense of teenage chaos with unflinching scenes of addiction, showcasing the collective darkness shrouding today’s adolescents with propulsive pace. Instead, We Are Who We Are is shot languorously with its poetic and lyrical aesthetic. Guadagnino’s slow burn of raw adolescent angst is an invitation to rejoice in the freedom of being oneself. In a disconnected digital world, everyone can relate to these vulnerable moments of feeling lost, alone, and trapped within a body that doesn’t feel like our own. In a time of rebellion against labels and categorization, this cinematic opera of teenage confusion is one that deserves to be watched.