Director: Lukas Moodysson
Cast: Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, Liv LeMoyne
Watch We Are the Best! online in the UK: iTunes
We have never been in a punk band. Neither have Bobo (Barkhammar) or Klara (Grosin). But that doesn’t stop them. Heading to their local Stockholm rec centre, the young teenagers grab a bass guitar and a drum set and immediately start rebelling.
What are they rebelling against? Anything they can find. They start with P.E. classes, where the pair resent being told to join in with a game of basketball. “Children in Africa are dying / All you care about is balls flying”, they declare, then giggle excitedly at their rhymes. These lyrics (including a couplet made up of “morgue” and “Björn Borg”) form the basis of their signature anthem: Hate the Sport.
“Hate the sport!” they yell over and over, banging the instruments loudly. The fact that they can’t play them simply doesn’t matter. They sound dreadful, adorable – and 100% real.
Director Lukas Moodysson draws flawless performances out of the young actresses, all of whom are newcomers. Mira Barkhammar’s bookish Bobo yearns to be as confident as her loud, bolshie comrade. Played with attitude by Mira Grosin, Klara sulks around with a mohawk on her head, moaning at her older brother for listening to Joy Division. Naturally, she’s the lead singer.
The pair soon befriend Hedvig, an outcast at the opposite end of the spectrum: a Christian with long, flowing locks, do-gooder morals and a mean talent for playing the guitar. Klara gleefully plans to corrupt her, guitar, hair and all.
It’s these little acts of revolt that make We Are the Best! (Vi är bast!) so delightful to watch. The serious threat of nuclear annihilation clearly looms over them – Klara repeatedly talks of skin melting and death – but the trio’s response is trivial, made up of gestures that make no difference to the planet but mean the world to them.
All the while, the ageing rocker adults are hardly part of The Establishment. Klara’s parents are actually understanding and supportive – one scene where her encouraging dad joins in their rehearsal with a clarinet is hilarious. Bobo’s mum is more self-centred, while Hedvig’s mother is mostly concerned about her daughter’s pristine appearance. Regardless of their domestic situation, though, each child has an urge to break out of their lives and do something unique.
They soon come across a male group from a neighbouring district, who are all aged 16. “Brezhnev and Reagan, fuck off!” they cry. Klara tries to hook up with one immediately, while Bobo uses hand soap to stick up her hair into spikes in an attempt to impress Klara’s older brother. “We’re not 12,” he smiles, condescendingly, when she tries to drink booze at his party. “I’m not 12 either,” she retorts. “I’m 13.”
That’s the energy that We Are the Best! captures so perfectly. Amid the period setting, all 70s hangovers and dismissive male musicians, Lukas Moodysson’s anarchically unstructured script (based on Coco Moodysson’s autobiographical graphic novel) is a joyous record of tiny expressions of identity – one that, if subtitles can be tolerated, teenagers and adults alike will find inspiring.
One quiet moment halfway through sees Liv LeMoyne perform an acoustic cover of Swedish band KSMB’s seminal hit, Sex Noll Två. “All around me there are thousands of people and this is just me,” she sings, gently plucking at the original track’s throbbing undercurrents. The men around them are speechless. These girls may speak softly – but they rock hard. What do they rock about? Anything they can find.
You may never have been in a punk band. After watching We are the Best!, you’ll want to start one immediately.