Review: WE ARE THE BEST! (2014) this Swedish middle school punk rock film is charming til the very end

June 22, 2014

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WE ARE THE BEST! (2014) Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, Liv LeMoyne, Johan Liljemark, Mattias Wiberg, Jonathan Salomonsson. Directed by Lukas Moodysson (Swedish with English subtitles)

It's 1982 and three middle school girls from Stockholm are determined to prove that punk rock is still alive, Bobo, her boyish tousled hair and Lennon style glasses fall in line with her quiet demeanor, Klara, the outspoken and rebellious leader who sports a Mohawk in true anarchist fashion, and Hedvig, the tall and talented guitarist who seems to represent everything the other two girls detest, conformity, religion, and a normal haircut.

Based on the graphic novel by Coco Moodysson and adapted by her husband, director Lukas Moodydon, We Are The Best! features three spectacular performances by Mira Barkhammar (Bobo), Mira Grosin (Klara), and Liv LeMoyne (Hedvig), either the three of them helped write the script or they provided input to director Lukas Moodysson who perfectly captures the mannerisms and concerns of 13 year old girls who are developing emotionally at a fast rate.

Bobo's mom drinks and seems to always have a new boyfriend. She loves to socialize and host dinner parties which keeps Bobo in her room listing to her favorite punk bands through headphones to block out the noise. At school she rarely responds to the other girls who tease her for her boyish looks, but her BFF Klara makes up for Bobo's timidness. When the two are forced to run laps during PE they decide to write a song about the coach called "Hate The Sport" this motivates the girls to start a band even though neither one of them can play an instrument, a true punk rock move. The local youth center provides the girls a drum set and a bass guitar to practice on but they are horrible. Then while watching the school talent show, the girls notice Hedvig, a tall, blonde haired, holy roller who also happens to be a talented guitarist. Hedvig's talent hasn't made her popular her with her classmates, in fact she's treated as an outcast just like Bobo and Klara who come up with the idea to invite her to join the band, having at least one member who can actually play an instrument may legitimize the group.

The film doesn't turn into School Of Rock and even though Hedvig joins the group and gives the girls tips, they remain horrible, but the energy of the trio is so refreshing to watch that their musical incompetence is irrelevant to the story.

The atmosphere of the film is changed once boys enter the narrative and the film becomes a slight coming of age drama, a smart move that takes the story to the next level. It's hard not to embrace the passion and energy of this film and despite the bad choices these girls make or the sour notes they hit, I found myself rooting for them til the very end.

(4 stars)

*Now showing at the Sundance Cinema (Houston)