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We Are the Best!

The spirit of Swedish punk filters through an astute and involving female coming-of-age film.
By Sarah Ward
September 19, 2014
By Sarah Ward
September 19, 2014

The unrelenting spirit of subversiveness filters through We Are the Best! as limits are pushed, energy is exuded and emotional wounds are exposed. Three teen girls in Stockholm circa 1980 traverse the troubles of their young years, finding solace in a sound deemed uncool by their peers. When everyone else is embracing the new wave, Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and her best friend Klara (Mira Grosin) only have ears for punk. Swiftly, they enlist the shy Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne) in their cause.

In an astute and involving rendering of the female coming-of-age experience, Lukas Moodysson's latest film understands the unease of being an outsider at such a formative age, as well the comfort that comes from escaping into an all-consuming but unpopular passion. The writer/director's effort radiates the same distinctive combination of awkwardness and relief as it crafts a joyous ode to accepting difference whilst navigating the difficulties of adolescence. A can-do attitude and a thumping soundtrack complete the charmingly determined package.

Adapting the graphic novel Never Goodnight, a semi-autobiographical effort by Lukas' wife Coco Moodysson, We Are the Best! accordingly charts the awakening that eventuates when Bobo, Klara and Hedvig endeavour to start their own band, much to the dismay of all around them. They chant "hate the sport" in response to disagreements over rehearsal space, they swoon over local boys who share the same interests, and they cycle through the standard rites of passage of their life stage, from drinking to dating to going wherever the moment takes them.

Helming his first feature since 2009's English-language outing Mammoth, Moodysson recaptures the verve and perceptiveness that helped him make his name with previous films Show Me Love, Together and Lilya 4-ever, as well as the same empathy for his characters. We Are the Best! is no teen fantasy nor a youth morality play, with the trials and tribulations of growing up devoid of sugarcoating or messaging. His proto-feminist protagonists are plagued by problems and imperfections, but their failings are facts rather than issues to be remedied as they persevere through his jumpy, enthusiastic frames.

Excellent casting caps off the earnest journey through turbulent times that We Are the Best! becomes, with performances ripped from reality. That the central trio hails from the same age group amplifies the authenticity that already teems through the film courtesy of its source material, but Barkhammar, Grosin and LeMoyne add their own spin in delicate evocations of both excitement and uncertainty. Theirs are portrayals both genuine and relatable, evoking the complexity of youthful friendship that echoes beyond the screen. These girls just want to have fun as they eke out their senses of selves, an aim and an outcome that the film gleefully copies.

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