We Are the Best! (London Film Festival 2013)
Punk leaned on its final legs by 1982; if not dead, a sneering tombstone was on standby. We Are the Best! offers a counterargument with two 13-year-old Stockholm girls who adore punk cassette compilations and start a band in the spirit of teenage rebellion. There’s also, the classic punk accolade: neither can play an instrument.
The two young leads already possess impressive comedic timing, thrusting one-liners that are believable and hilarious. Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) is tomboyish and sternly anti-makeup, as part of her punk ethos. Her best friend Klara (Mira Grosin) shares a rebellious streak, sporting a mohawk and tendency to dominate conversations. In an early scene, the they are dismissed from a school basketball lesson for inadvertently applying communist values to the game (by ignoring team groupings), quickly establishing the loquacious duo as content outsiders – hence the punk group (and a song about the fascist PE teachers).
Bobo and Klara take up drums and bass, with the latter shouting lyrics like: “Abort the sport!” The group find their Mick Jones through Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), a friendless, normal-looking girl adept at classical guitar. The gang of misfits bring to mind Sam Weir and his pals in Freaks and Geeks, where friendship is the antidote for boredom and being misunderstood by parents.
Lukas Moodysson applies a loving, nostalgic tone to We Are the Best! that emanates warmth and almost no cynicism; despite the clashes between school cliques and differing ideologies, everyone is in on the joke. The period details are effortless, and Stockholm snow adds to the teenagers’ future memories.
For Klara, punk’s relevance is more than disliking school and “commercial disco”, but a wider rejection of religion. Klara, with Bobo, attempt to alleviate Hedvig of her Christian background by playing her a song called “Hang God” and cutting off half her hair. Hedvig somewhat obliges, out of friendship, distilling the subculture’s hypocrisy – made even more evident when they meet another band dressed in similar attire.
I’m actually not a fan of Moodysson’s most celebrated feature, Together, and can barely remember Show Me Love. However, I laughed throughout We Are the Best! and was transfixed by its earnest positivity.
The children strive for an identity, whether punk or Christianity, eventually finding comfort as their own subculture of three – the “we” of the film’s urgent title. They display anger when anyone suggests they are just “a girl band” – no, they are punk and, indeed, the best.
We Are the Best! is the gala screening of the London Film Festival’s “Sonic” strand. More information can be found here.
102 mins approx