After a sparkling start to his directing career with the likes of Show Me Love (1998) and Together (2000), Lukas Moodysson descended into a dark place with a series of deliberately off-putting films of varying quality. With We Are the Best!, an adaptation of his wife’s Coco Moodysson’s graphic novel about a trio of female teen punks who form a band in 1980s Stockholm, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Without breaking new ground, it presents a delightfully authentic evocation of teenage life that can’t help but leave a warm glow.
Bobo (Mira Barkhammar), Klara (Mira Grosin) and Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne) make up the band that they are proud to call the world’s greatest despite the fact that only Hedvig can actually play an instrument. The creation of the band itself is an accident spawned from Bobo and Klara’s desire to spite a group of older teenagers who are rude to them by booking out the rehearsal space at a local youth centre.
Deciding to give this music malarkey a go, they throw themselves into song writing with all the beautiful earnestness of adolescence. Their signature song is a rant against school sports inspired by a PE teacher who punishes them for not taking class seriously. They also mix in a panoply of issues from world peace to hunger and pollution. The problem is neither Bobo on the drums nor Klara on the bass (the only instruments available in the youth centre) can actually play. To rectify this, they recruit Hedvig, a Christian who is an accomplished guitarist with the twin aim of improving their band and converting her away from her misguided faith.
And yet the band is really just the backdrop for a delightful journey through the perils of teenage life. They may attempt to enter into a music concert and play a Christmas show but this is not the driving force in We Are the Best!. Instead, the Moodyssons’ use the set-up to explore what it’s like to be a teen trying to fit in while dealing with friend and relationship issues and a sometimes difficult home life.
The opening scene sees Bobo isolated in a room of adults as her mother celebrates her birthday. Her family life is not entirely stable with a different man appearing on a semi-regular basis and an awkward relationship with a mostly absent father. Dressing the way they do, they also face ridicule from classmates although Klara seems happy to fight fire with fire. Into the mix comes Hedvig, who they chide in a cringingly accurate way for always following instructions while trying to make her look like them, and a couple of young teenage boys who cause splits in Bobo and Klara’s friendship.
None of this is new. Teenagers grasping for a sense of identity and belonging is well-trodden territory but Moodysson packages it up in such an appealing fashion that it doesn’t really matter. Convincing performances from the three girls aid an affectionate portrayal that elevates the source material, fostering a tender feeling of warmth throughout.
We Are The Best was released on DVD & Blu-ray 28th July 2014.
Director: Lukas Moodysson
Stars: Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, Liv LeMoyne
Runtime: 102 mins