Luca Guadagnino's "Right Here, Right Now VII – And Last" comes to a touching ending that both yields and defies expectations.
(Editor's Note: The following review contains spoiler for "We are who we are" episode 8, "right here, right now 8 and last")
The old saying goes: "A promise made is a promise kept." But for Fraser (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Caitlin (Jordan Kristine Seamón), two teenagers who live against the status quo, their promise is reinforced by not keeping it. At the beginning of the series, when the two aspiring friends said they would never kiss, neither knew what kind of trip they would take together. that Caitlin would explore the world as Harper, that Fraser would become her fair defender, or that they would find such a strong bond.
But beyond the duo's growing devotion, their promise was always at odds with their attitude. Sure, it helped back then; Eliminating a potential romantic component freed them from worrying about whether or not they were flirting, whether or not they were dating, whether or not they were attracted to each other, and their individual personalities were allowed to grow freely. Fraser supported Caitlin, Caitlin supported Fraser. Easy.
Even so, Fraser and Caitlin, along with most of the teenagers in Luca Guadagnino's beautiful identity drama "We Are Who We Are," are children who refuse to be cooped up by anything. Much of the finale is an hour-long reverie revolving around passed out music and belated goodbyes, with Fraser and Caitlin embarking on one final adventure together before their parents pull them apart. They confess secrets, they fight, they run away from each other (literally and a lot) until the same indisputable bond that united them in the first place sends them back into each other's arms. The finale has all the merits of a Hollywood ending, including a last-minute sprint so the guy can tell the girl how he really feels.
And then they break their promise. They kiss. Take what you want from the final scene – Guadagnino's series is nothing if not ambiguous – but Fraser and Caitlin's tender moment doesn't have to be romantic. Most likely not. The kiss seems like the only way to realize how deeply they feel for each other and that a handshake or a goodbye hug wouldn't be enough to remind them of their time together.
The story deserves this interpretation by undermining so many assumptions along the way that makes it an even better ending. How many stories by a young man and a young woman end in a big, sweeping, romantic kiss? How often in the history of film and television is a lengthy make-out session required that the magical end audience demands? Here the same final scene works against these neat endings. Instead of serving as the nuts and bolts – "Oh, you're in love! Happy ending! Yay!" – It invites further questions. "So are you a couple?" "Should they be?" "Is that the right ending for this story?"
Yannis Drakoulidis / HBO
But the longer you sit with it, the clearer the message becomes: Fraser and Caitlin are not dictated; Your actions are not determined by anyone else and your decisions are your own. They didn't kiss to our advantage. They kissed for her. Whether you read the title as a defiant declaration (“We are who we are, damn it!”) Or as a shrug of the shoulders (“We are who we are, I think…”), it is not apologetic and honest, open-minded and good meant.
I keep going back to the conversation before the concert when Fraser tells Caitlin that Mark, his former crush from New York, wasn't real. Fraser invented it. For Fraser, this is a great revelation. He's embarrassed, but he also doesn't want Caitlin to think less about their friendship because he's lied to her for so long. And on another show, Caitlin would feel right at home when she felt betrayed and debilitated by Fraser's emotional betrayal.
Instead, she accepts it – and more.
"OK," she says. "Mark doesn't exist, Harper doesn't exist, both of us, we don't exist. I mean, it's okay. Craig doesn't exist and it's okay. Maybe nothing exists: like Sam or the base or our parents, and that's in." Order! We don't exist! "
"So damn it!" Fraser howls joyfully and they dance into the night.
The thing is, they exist. For each other they are as real as life gets. The ending underscores that too. Reaching out and feeling each other, grabbing each other, kissing each other cement their shared reality.
It's an incredibly grand and intimate ending that lends itself well to the eight-episode story we just saw. Whether it is the absolute end of "We Are Who We Are" remains open. Luca Guadagnino has said his writing team has already written a draft for season two and they would love to continue these characters' stories. Seamón said if the show goes on, she's hoping they'll jump ahead to see Caitlin and Fraser in their 20s. I would like to see it. Coming-of-age stories so often take place in our so-called formative years, but the fluidity of Generation Z is not meant to end with high school. Identities change and take shape over the course of their lives. We are who we are, but that doesn't mean we will always be.
Some promises are really made to be broken.
"We Are Who We Are" will be streamed in full on HBO Max. Season 2 has not yet been ordered by HBO.