Why We Are Who We Are should be your next box set
Helen Archer | On 25, Nov 2020
Director Luca Guadagnino’s first foray into television is something of a triumph, losing neither his renowned aesthetic nor his sensitive characterisation in the translation to the small screen. This eight-part series, set in an American military base near Chioggia, Italy, in the run-up to Trump’s win in the 2016 election, follows the lives of some of the teenagers shored up there, in this very particular time and space.
Jack Dylan Grazer gives a pitch-perfect performance as the initially self-absorbed, unsympathetic Fraser, newly arrived at the base with his Colonel mother (Chloe Sevigny) and her wife, played by Alice Barga. They are housed next door to the family of 14-year-old Caitlin (newcomer Jordan Kristine Seamon). The two teens soon form an intense bond, a springboard from which they can explore their burgeoning sexual and gender identities, while surrounded by a cast of characters each going through their own crises.
The teenagers come to life as they escape the sterility of the base for the deserted Adriatic beaches and surrounding villages. Freeze-frames and slow-mo evoke the small, significant moments which punctuate a perpetual boredom, and the soundtrack surges with constant, perfectly picked refrains, highlighting the importance of music as a backdrop to adolescence. Guadagnino once again confidently captures the languorousness of youth.
The series isn’t perfect – it takes a little while to find its feet, and for the audience to become acclimatised to its pace – but the cumulative effect is of a dreamy glimpse into the heightened feelings of teenager hood, in all its beauty and ugliness, exploring friendship and love with a raw, aching tenderness.
Bagpuss is available on BBC iPlayer until October 2022
This short review was originally published as part of a fortnightly BBC Three reviews column.