This New HBO Series Is Made For Fans Of Call Me By Your Name

Welcome to “What’s Good,” a weekly column where we break down what’s soothing, distracting, or just plain good in the streaming world.
Photo: Courtesy of Bell Media.
What’s Good? We Are Who We Are on Crave
Who It’s Good For: Director Luca Guadagnino is very good at capturing the simmering angst of adolescence, especially under a sweltering Italian sun. Fans of Call Me By Your Name will be pleased to learn that Guadagnino’s flair for depicting the slow burn of sexual discovery through captivating young protagonists (in Italy!) has not been lost in his transition from big to small screen. In fact, the eight-episode format allows the auteur to dig deeper into his characters, sink into postcard-worthy visuals, and take his time in the quiet moments. The result is an intoxicating cocktail of hormones, awkwardness, alcohol, and electricity — think Euphoria meets, well, Call Me By Your Name. 
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How Good Is It? We Are Who We Are is good because it meets every expectation that comes with the pitch — an HBO show about confused teens directed by a film-festival darling — while also providing an unexpected rumination on American military propaganda. The backdrop of this coming-of-age story is a U.S. army base in modern-day Italy. When we meet Fraser (Jack Dylan Grazer, who is no Timothée Chalamet, but very good nonetheless), he’s a typical moody 14-year-old who just wants to be back in New York City, judges people based on their star signs, and hates his mother.
His mom, Sarah (Chloë Sevigny), is a military commander with a doting wife (Alice Braga) and goads her son into vitriolic outbursts. Her commitment to country and power seems to outweigh her love for him. Similarly, our other teen star, Caitlin (the revelatory Jordan Kristine Seamón), is the daughter of a strict military officer (played by Scott Mescudi, aka Kid Cudi, whose presence as the dad in this show exists to make millennials like me feel old) and their relationship adds another layer of complication to Caitlin’s gender exploration. 
While Fraser is sorting through his brimming attraction to the naked men populating the military base, Caitlin is trying to figure out her gender expression. Early on, she’s seen wearily making out with a boy she seems entirely bored of. Later, she pins her hair back and picks up a girl by introducing herself with a different name. Fraser and Caitlin bond over their mutual struggle to fit in and to define themselves. The combination of their discomfort in their bodies, their naivety, and their budding friendship becomes the most fascinating and heartwarming piece of this unfurling puzzle. 
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We learn from Hillary Clinton speeches playing in the background and an inexplicable MAGA hat appearance (I’ve only seen the first four episodes, but the jarring cameo from the red cap of hate donned by a Black character is going to need more explanation for me) that the 2016 U.S. election is the real-world context in which these characters are living and it adds an engrossing dimension to a story about sexuality and acceptance. As Caitlin continues to figure out her gender, it’s not only her father’s assumed disapproval she’ll be up against. It’s unclear how political the show will get, but by surrounding its main characters with soldiers, it doesn’t need to be overt in its social commentary. The exposition is implied. The base may be in Italy but as one character says, “this is America.” 
Ultimately, We Are Who We Are is a sensitive, fish-out-of-water, coming-of-age story that delights through stunning cinematography (a Guadagnino specialty) and challenges through richly grounded, authentic storytelling. It’s an immersive viewing experience that will whisk you into a world unlike any other teen drama on television — one that treats its subjects like the adults they think they are and with reverence of their feelings, something their parents refuse to do. Watching the first four episodes of the season was like getting a glimpse at a half-finished painting. I hope the result delivers on the masterpiece anticipated from the first few strokes. If nothing else, it’s really really pretty to look at.
Things that are also good:
• The road-trip comedy Unpregnant, which manages to find the humour and heart in a story about a teen girl getting an abortion
• The fact that Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight are facing off in a Verzuz battle that will lay my edges, clear my skin, water my crops, etc.
• Don’t get The Vow confused with the Channing Tatum/ Rachel McAdams romantic drama — this documentary series is about the sex cult NXIVM, and it’s fascinating
• There are so many great films still streaming at the Toronto International Film Festival and even though you may have to enjoy them from your couch instead of a fancy theatre with the possibility of a celeb-sighting, they’re worth your time
Defunding the police

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