We Are the Best! is a film about three Sweedish girls in their young teens who try to form a punk band, and that”s about it. It’s a concept that could have come off as esoteric, and uneventful, but the film instead speaks volumes in it’s simplicity and passion towards it’s subject matter. The film, is clearly coming from a very special place, as director Lukas Moodysson was around the same age as his three protagonists during the film’s time-period of the early 1980s, but he also is adapting his film from a graphic novel created by his wife Coco. For that reason, one would think the film would get by on authenticity and exuberance alone, and it effortlessly does!
Set in 1982, the film initially introduces us to the characters of Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin), the two protagonists that have already been drawn into punk culture. They’re ridiculed by their peers, and often uninterested in their school classes, so the two decide that they can turn their outsider-status into music. Upon realizing that they aren’t realizing their potential as a two-piece, they decide they need a third member, who they discover during a school talent show. The newest member becomes Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne) a christian girl who has been un-exposed to the punk lifestyle, but all three find themselves quite the group who will go through times both good and bad, all while keeping it pretty hard-core!
While Moodysson has directed many different types of film with varying tones, his initial works were mostly renowned for how youthful and sweet they felt. For that reason, We Are the Best! could be seen as a return to form for him, as the movie is unavoidably adorable. Despite the androgynous looks of it’s main characters (I’ll admit that when I saw the trailer I had falsely assumed the three leads to be male), the trio are just so cute to watch, and it’s actually because of their lack of musical talent. The band’s signature song “Hate the Sport”, is a haphazardly written and performed protest song against gym class, and it’s impossible not to laugh at it. Still, the movie is very meaningful too, as it addresses issues that punk bands have continuously addressed, but through the eyes of the very young. We see Klara, Bobo and Hedvig try to avoid labels or romantic disputes, but perhaps most interesting is the film’s material regarding religion. Hedvig’s Christian upbringing is much ridiculed by Klara due to her adherence to punk music’s typically atheistic proclivity, and the dialogue concerning this is some of the most provocative in the film (let it be known that Moodysson is a devout Catholic).
It’s also a piece that rings with authenticity. Shot in an unfussy style that’s reminiscent of Moodysson’s 2000 film Together, the film is shot in a low-key/low-budget manner, and it almost looks like it was actually made in 1982. The editing, however, is more kinetic, and scenes don’t tend to last long before going on to the next one (not unlike a punk album). Bravo too, towards the film’s three leads, as while none of them could have been born before 1995, they all seem to understand the era of the film, and are able to individualize all their characters, while also working synchronous chemistry upon each other.
To call We Are the Best! a coming of age story would be remiss. The three leads hardly mature during the storyline, and any problems they have are more-or-less easily resolved as their issues are the typically inconsequential ones that all young people find tumultuous at the giving moment. Instead, We Are the Best! is a celebration of the excitement of youthful exploration, particularly of those embarking out on a bohemian lifestyle. It would be more apropos to call We Are the Best! a feel good movie though, as the thought of leaving this theater with anything less than a huge grin on your face would seem churlish. A must-see, even for those who don’t favor the music genre.