I’ve done music movies on here before, or rather movies about music. But they were all documentaries: Snoop Lion, a famed studio, and Christian Hardcore. But this is my first review of a narrative film about music. Or rather a narrative film about three teenage girls who try to start a punk band in 1982, despite declaring that punk is dead. I use the term narrative loosely. Did I mention that it’s also in Swedish? Yes, We Are The Best! is the new film from Swedish wunderkind and cinematic guru Lukas Moodysson. So how does a guy like me, a 20 something millennial end up seeing a movie about three wannabe Swedish Punks? Well, first off, I had been excited for this movie ever since I saw the trailer for it late last year. I absolutely love Moodysson’s work; Show Me Love (his first film, known as Fucking Amal in Sweden) is a gem, an absolute masterpiece of modern cinema. Also, to those who know me, I have espoused a love and admiration in the past of foreign films, particularly those coming out of Scandinavia. (My favourite film of all time just might be Let The Right One In, the ultimate vampire love story. Surprise! It’s also from Sweden). Moodysson for me is up there with the likes of Werner Herzog – one the greatest living directors – and Europe’s bad bay Lars Von Trier, although they all have wildly different styles.
We Are The Best! is a departure from Mammoth – Moodysson’s last film (And first English-language project) and marks to a return to the style of Fucking Amal and Together that made him a household name. It follows the story of Bobo and Klara, two best friends from Stockholm, who dress like boys and decide to start a punk band, despite neither of them having picked up an instrument. Along the way, they befriend Christian girl Hedvig, a legitimate classical guitarist, and the trio is born. Like with many of his previous projects, Moodysson has cast unknown, first time actors in the lead roles. Even amongst the supporting cast, there are very few “professionals”. But like most of Moodysson’s projects, it works. In particular, Mira Grosin who plays Klara really captured the essence of a combative, imaginative and bombastic punk. Liv LeMoyne was also stunning as Hedvig, who slowly comes out of her religious shell and adopts a more free lifestyle, though she is still the most reserved of the three.
By his own admission, Moodysson doesn’t like story, preferring to focus on the characters. This is true of We Are The Best! While the film has more structure than say A Hole in My Heart or Container, it is still less plot-based than a traditional film. True, it has a linear storyline and content, but it is laid out more as a sequence of events rather than an actual story. Many of the characters actions often go unexplained, with Bobo, Klara and Hedvig doing things just because (how very punk). But the performances of Grosin, LeMoyne and Mira Barkhammar, who plays Bobo, are so innocent and pure, that their voices, emotions, and actions carry the film; we go on the journey with them, I never once questioned why or asked myself if something made sense; the three girls had me at hello.
Moodysson has a way with everything, but in particular he gets untrained child actors to give amazing performances. As with Show Me Love, We Are The Best! is a coming-of-age awkward-yet-incredibly-touching love story about best friends who are outcast because of their views and the way they look. I can relate to that. I think a lot of people can; it is still a very relevant topic in today’s society, especially with all the focus on bullying. The characters are the same age Moodysson was in 1982, so perhaps he was able to relate to them on that level as well. In a way, I find him to be a very minimalistic director and the performances of his cast to be very raw. The film definitely struck a chord with me, as I was almost a complete social outcast at that age, and was at a very unrelenting school. Unlike these girls though, I did not come across punk until well into my teenage years, with the revival of punk rock and the post-punk movement. It has only been within the last five years or so, that I have gone back and discovered punk music’s roots.
But beyond the film’s punk undertones, it is a very sweet and heartfelt story. The friendship between the girls is heartfelt and believable and, as I am writing this, I am reflecting on my relationship with my best friend, whom I’ve know for almost 10 years now. If we were alive and in school in 1982, I would imagine we would have a relationship like Bobo and Klara (And Hedvig). For me, this film hit all the right notes and only enforces my love of Swedish cinema and the force that is Lukas Moodysson.
Ebba Gron – popular Swedish punk band that were frequently referenced in the movie!
We Are The Best! was adapted from the graphic novel Never Goodnight by Coco Moodysson, Lukas’ wife, and was released in North America on May 30, 2014.