We Are the Best!

We Are the Best! (2013)
★★★ / ★★★★

Stockholm, 1982: Two best friends, Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) are sick of hearing that “Punk is dead!” and so they decide to form a band of their own. Problem: Neither of them knows how to play an instrument. But that does not stop them. Soon, the duo becomes a trio after Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), a loner because she is believed to be a devout Christian, joins the group. She can play the acoustic guitar.

“We Are the Best!,” based on the graphic novel by Coco Moodysson, is a delightful throwback to childhood when it feels like anything is possible. It is a refreshing picture—one that we need more of considering the current standard of movies aimed at young teens, especially girls—because it has something to say about how friendships work without having to recycle tired clichés. It is able to think outside the box at times that just about every scene, especially during the former half, comes across as natural.

Hedvig, Klara, and Bobo have distinct personalities. Although they are very different from one another, we understand and appreciate the camaraderie they share. For instance, each of them can be considered as an outsider. Most obvious is their haircuts. Klara sports a mohawk. Bobo’s is… just strange. We learn at a party that Bobo cut it herself. It shows. There is a scene that takes place early on when their classmates point out that punk is so passé which implies that Bobo and Klara’s look is an exercise in futility, that they are not “in the know.”

Klara is the leader and Hedvig is the talent. Where is Bobo’s place? I wished that Lukas Moodysson’s screenplay would have spent the time to explore this character. She is, after all, the central protagonist. We are given some clues that she might have some self-esteem issues such as not feeling beautiful enough physically—at least not on the level of Klara who gets invitations to all the parties. There are amusing moments that show Bobo having a crush on Linus (Charlie Falk), Klara’s sixteen-year-old brother. Look at how she glows when a boy finally gives her attention.

They may not be able to play music well but their attitude is clearly punk. Their sense of humor can get a bit rough at times, they cause and get into trouble, they beg strangers for money just so they can purchase an electric guitar, they even take advantage of a rule involving a sign-up sheet in order to get another band kicked out of the venue during rehearsal. There is a feeling that it is all done in good fun.

Directed by Lukas Moodysson, “Vi är bäst!” is not for audiences who expect to get a typical dramatic arc. It is unconcerned with exploring themes and deep characterization. It even dares to wander at times. Clearly, its aim is to show how these kids live, what they love, and how they deal with challenges presented to them. Punk is not dead as long as people are out there striving to live a life away from perfect square normalcy.

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