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

With the 2020 presidential election on the imminent horizon, the choice to set “We Are Who We Are” on the precipice of Trump’s 2016 victory is especially charged. An outdoor screening of a baseball game is disrupted by a blaring Trump ad in which the presidential candidate calls for a Muslim travel ban. It’s not long after that when Richard excitedly invites Caitlin to try on his newly purchased MAGA hat, which his daughter’s hair makes difficult to secure on her head, as if out of protest. Richard is a loving father in many ways, though when he encourages Caitlin to spread her wings and fly, he doesn’t understand all that such a statement entails. It remains to be seen whether the president’s transgender military ban will factor into future episodes.

It is in the third and best episode screened for critics that Guadagnino’s show truly emerges as a sublime ensemble piece, and casting director Carmen Cuba (“Stranger Things,” “Mrs. America”) must be credited for the remarkable array of talent that holds our fascination, even as the focus shifts from our central duo. Among the standouts is Francesca Scorsese, daughter of Martin, who continuously threatens to steal each of her scenes as Britney, an exuberantly flirtatious girl who asks guys to “walk” for her, so she can determine whether or not they are well-hung. Spence Moore II also makes an indelible impression as Caitlin’s god-fearing brother, Danny, who may or may not have repressed feelings for his close friend, Craig (Corey Knight), which is suggested as they stare at one another in a prolonged, extreme close-up. 

While Richard bristles at having his military unit be commanded by Sarah simply because she’s a lesbian, his wife, Jenny (Faith Alabi), makes fast friends with Sarah’s partner, Maggie (a luminous Alice Braga). As they stroll together on a detour from the night’s crowded annual festivities, Jenny reveals that she used to identify as Islamic. After marrying Richard, she explains, “I stopped being a lot of things,” a piercing observation that affirms how her soul is aligned with that of Emma’s in “I Am Love.”


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