“Right Here Right Now I” introduces Luca Guadagnino’s newest endeavour with style and attitude, suggesting plenty of potential going forward.
This recap of We Are Who We Are episode 1, “Right Here Right Now I”, contains spoilers.
In many ways, We Are What We Are is distinctly a Luca Guadagnino endeavour, at least if Call Me By Your Name is your primary exposure to the Italian director – which, let’s face it, it almost certainly is. His new HBO miniseries, written alongside Paolo Giordano and Francesca Manieri, concerns a journey of sexual self-discovery undertaken by Fraser Wilson (Jack Dylan Grazer), a bleach-blonde teen with a whispery moustache, a drinking problem and an attitude, who is whisked off to an Italian military base because one of his two mothers (Chloë Sevigny’s Sarah) has a high-ranking posting there. It’s queer-teen coming-of-age adventure in the purest sense; at one point in the premiere, “Right Here Right Now I”, Fraser picks up and reads aloud from William S. Burroughs’s 1971 dystopian novel The Wild Boys.
This opening hour establishes Fraser’s sudden change of environment but also his litany of issues, those both explicitly stated and unconvincingly tamped down. He is consistently apart from everyone, both in his personal style – which includes nail polish and wide, leopard-print clown pants – and his viewpoint. Both his mothers baby him, but in different ways; both also seem somewhat dependent on him in the way that a child is supposed to be dependent on their parents, which gives the dynamic lingering toxicity. During one argument, Fraser slaps Sarah and tells her he hates her, and she cuddles him right afterwards. Several times during this scene I couldn’t tell if they were messing with each other or not, which I imagine is intentional. (They weren’t, as it turns out.)
We Are Who We Are, at least as far as “Right Here Right Now I”, is couched entirely in Fraser’s perspective, and it’s mostly unconcerned with ideas of plotting or anything of that sort. It’s much more a mood piece, a ride-along with Fraser as he ambles around the base consistently defying authority, failing to make friends with the other military kids, getting extremely drunk, and eventually returning home a mess. It’s up to the audience to pick up on the little details and quirks that Guadagnino highlights, including Fraser’s excitable reaction when he stumbles into the men’s locker room, and much of his burgeoning relationship with the equally-adrift Caitlin (Jordan Kristine Seamón), especially once he spots her in a disguise and trails her to a place where she is someone else – perhaps a truer self, even if only temporarily.
This largely plotless opener builds to this revelation but doesn’t really treat it like one. Instead, it’s the show’s themes of identity reaching a crossover point; one outsider realizing that they’re not alone. The episode’s final line, “So what should I call you?”, is deployed as a cliffhanger, Fraser acknowledging that he has discovered a secret but also offering his acceptance. He’ll call Caitlin what she wants to be called – after all, we are who we are.
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