We Are The Best! (Vi är bäst!) is a loaded title but this Swedish film is all about challenging your expectations. The movie was written and directed by Lukas Moodysson, who was adapting the graphic novel that his wife, Coco, had penned about her fictionalised teenage years. The result is a feel good, coming-of-age story and romp through punk music headed by three strong teenage girls.
The year is 1982 and punk has been declared dead by most people as they turn their favour towards new wave music. But two friends remain unfazed by this. They are Klara (a stand-out, Mira Grosin) who is the brash and sarcastic driving force behind starting a band and her friend, Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) an independent latch-key kid whose parents are divorced.
Both girls look androgynous with their short hair, lack of make-up and choice of clothes. For this, they are treated like social misfits by the females at their school. The setting is certainly reminiscent of a teenage angst-filled, John Hughes film. One day Klara and Bobo find themselves in a bind and the best solution seems to be to show the young men at the recreational centre that they too can be a band. It’s an impulsive move, especially as they have to borrow a bass and drum kit and at first they have no obvious musical talent.
Along the way the girls’ enthusiasm is unwavering. They recruit another outcast, a devout, Christian girl named Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne) and convert her to punk music and convince her to cut her long, blonde hair. The trio blossom and share lots of typical teenage episodes and unguarded moments, like getting drunk for the first time, clashing over first boyfriends and bonding over their “lame” parents and the old folks’ expectations that seem at odds with the attitude and alternative lifestyles that they want to live.
We Are The Best! is an intimate film where hand-held cameras make it at times seem like a fly-on-the-wall documentary. The soundtrack is mostly punk music but there are two segues in the form of The Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” and some Jimi Hendrix riffs (which are used to quiet some cheeky boys who offer to help a classically-trained guitarist learn her instrument). The trio may be a band of teenage girls but they rally against being called a “girl” band and their song, “Hate The Sport” (which shows their disdain for athletics) becomes an anthem by the film’s end.
Moodysson’s adaptation is ultimately a tender, labour of love where the three unknown lead actresses charm and show unwavering maturity in their debut roles. The film is certainly uplifting, fiery and fun. We Are The Best! has a big name but its combination of humour, attitude and heart ensures that it lives up to any high expectations the audience may have.
Originally published on 1 August 2014 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/2014/08/01/melbourne-international-film-festival-review-we-are-the-best-vi-ar-bast-sweden-denmark-2013/
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