WE ARE THE BEST! should really be compulsory viewing for pre-teen girls worried about their self-image or “fitting in”. It probably won’t be encouraged by many parents though, considering our three thirteen-year old protagonists get called, and call others the C-word. But despite the pre-teens’ sailor’s vocabulary and their rebellious antics (they gatecrash and get drunk at a party, trash a canteen and hang out in abandoned buildings and on rooftops) I think all the groovier parents out there should still let their kids watch the film. The morals tirelessly promoted throughout – friendship, fortitude, determination and just being yourself – are all values that would benefit any child’s worldview and enjoyment of life.
It’s suburban Sweden in the 1980s, and best friends Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) love punk. They love the music, the image and what it stands for, and when an opportunity presents itself to not only to have fun forming a band, but to stick a middle finger up to the man, they just can’t resist. The only problem is that Bobo and Klara can’t play music, and need help from religious good girl Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne) if anyone is going to take them even a little bit seriously.
The central friendship of Bobo, Klara, and later Hedvig is captivating, and the young actors’ effortlessly natural performances (frequently resulting in them visibly cracking each other up, scripted or not) brings the story to vividly true life. I think the shy and troubled Bobo may be one of my favourite film characters in recent years. Her home life is miserable, with her single mother frequently at work or seeing her latest man, and even when hanging out with her BFF Klara, it’s never her show, she’s never the centre of attention. The girls decide to form a band as much to cause disruption at their youth club as to create music. They write a protest song about how much they hate PE, and Bobo moans “why do I have to play the drums?” while Klara gets the much cooler bass guitar. Eventually they recruit quiet and Christian Hedvig to inject a little much-needed talent, maturity and motherly affection into their ensemble, but even at this stage they seem to be in a band as an excuse to hang out more than any genuine musical aspirations.
You don’t need a lot of help to make snowy Sweden look pretty, but We Are the Best! is a very good looking film regardless, with careful framing and pleasing attention to detail without ever being showy or overshadowing the actors’ performances. Lukas Moodysson, as well as having an awesome name, proves to be a confident actor’s director with a real style and rhythm to his work.
It’s a great film about a very specific age group, girls who are beyond children but still not quite teenagers. They contemplate which of the cute boys from a teen punk band they’d like to be an item with in a giggly girly fashion, but when a jealous argument erupts later in the film between Bobo and Klara, their commitment to their crushes doesn’t last all that long, and they decide pretty quickly their friendship isn’t worth losing over a stupid boy neither are that bothered about hanging on to.
Much like the girls’ attitude to punk and life in general, Moodysson’s film exhibits a pleasingly unfussed attitude towards what the world thinks of it. It can be as deep or as simple as you like. Is it a commentary on loyalty, growing up and art as a way to smash the system, or is it just a pleasant little tale of three friends goofing around? Personally I think it’s a little of both, but others might commit to one side or the other. Either way, there’s a lot enjoy.
If this unassuming treasure of a film passed you by on its release, then it’s time to rectify that. We Are the Best! really is the best, a fantastically feelgood films about growing up at your own pace and having fun every step of the way. An absolute pleasure. SSP
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