One does not need to be a punk aficionado to appreciate the warmth and heart behind “We Are the Best!,” a charming Swedish film directed by Lukas Moodyson, based on his wife Coco’s graphic novel. The characters and dialogue seem somehow very engaging and natural, and the three girl actors (playing a trio of adolescents who start a punk rock group) give candid, believable performances.
Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) are two girls in their very early teens who are overlooked by their respective families and get no support at school. Perhaps as a result, the kids fancy themselves punk rocker rebels whose day-to-day frustration is only matched by their attempts to ‘stick it to the man.’ They both sport unconventional hairstyles (a Mohawk and a boy’s haircut,) perhaps willfully trying to break away from typically feminine ‘little girl’ labels.
The two girls decide one day that they want to perform a punk song about hating gym, but neither of them have any musical talent. Klara decides to enlist shy and pious Hedvig (Liv Lemoyne) to teach them how to play an instrument, hoping to possibly influence Hedvig with their punk basasserie away from God in the process.
Whether they make an atheist out of Hedvig is highly doubtful, but they do help her to loosen up and enjoy herself a bit more, and she aids them in improving their musical skills. Trouble arises when Klara begins to put on make-up and fetches the attention of a punk teen and Bobo starts to feel unattractive and alienated. It’s typical teenaged angst, applied with the gentle touch of an artist who knows what it’s like to be a kid with raging hormones and best friend troubles.
I found Klara to be somewhat irritating with her attempts to alienate Hedvig for having any kind of faith, but it does lead to an amusing and insightful discussion of religion and the challenge of believing in something you can neither see nor touch. Bobo was a cutie. I really liked her. My heart also went out to Hedvig and it was inspiring to see her start to enjoy herself a little more (although Hedvig’s tightly-wound mother was none too happy to see that Bobo and Klara had cut her straight-laced darling’s hair punk-style.)
I was genuinely worried for the girls when they go to meet some teenaged punk artists to mingle and flirt, and was relieved they came back in one piece. The parents, especially Bobo’s irresponsible, childish mom, were infinitely aggravating . Still, nothing was exaggerated or overwritten. It isn’t cruelty the girls have to contend with (from their parents, their classmates are another story) or even blatant uncaring as much as ignorance and distractedness.
*SPOILER* I also loved how the performance the girls gave at the end was a total failure and the opposing band and the ignoramus adults in charge of the whole thing barely gave them a chance to play but the trio couldn’t haven given less of a fuck. The climactic scene is not like a lot of others of its kind in many ways- the girls aren’t appreciated or even particularly good, but they get a kick out of doing it so that’s what they do. *END OF SPOILER*
“We Are the Best!” is a delightful experience because it’s so human and accessible, and draws compelling performances from its three young actresses. Anyone whose ever felt like a misfit, especially girls who have been discomforted and bewildered by the Barbie-doll standards of femininity will empathize with “We Are the Best!”‘s winsome trio.