In the shadow of the big summer releases, a quiet Swedish-Danish coming-of-age drama has squeezed its way into a few theaters across the county. We Are the Best! (original title: Vi är bäst!) stars three very young women (Mira Barkhammer, Mira Grosin, and Liv LeMoyne) as the members of an amateur punk band in the early 80’s.
Bobo (Barkhammer) and Klara (Grosin) are seventh graders whose interest in punk rock has driven them to cut their hair and dress in a way that distances them from their peers. An antagonistic relationship with a band at their local youth center drives the girls to form a band of their own. Neither girl has any training, however, so they hatch a plan to influence an unpopular, Christian, classical guitarist named Hedvig (LeMoyne) into joining their group (and their lifestyle). Soon enough, Hedvig’s hair is short and she is shouting anti-establishment anthems alongside her compatriots.
At the start of the film, Bobo and Klara do not have a great grasp on the punk lifestyle. They are mostly attracted up the counter-ness of it all. As the movie progresses they start to get a better sense of the social and political aspects of punk, and they start to embrace it more and more. But more than anything, the movement allows them an opportunity to be different. Karla buys into the meaning, but Bobo is looking for the place where she fits in. Hedvig splits the difference between her two friends – she is mostly just overjoyed to have finally found people who like her for who she is.
We Are the Best! is fun and light and nearly flawless, save for one aspect. At some point in the second half of the movie a group of male punks are introduced solely for the purpose of injecting young love (and conflict) into the movie. The idea is sound – though these moments and the fallout from them are the closest the movie gets to a lull – but it is a little disappointing that the girls have to play so much into heteronormative gender expectations.
I know. I can’t really believe I wrote that either. I sometimes act as a standard-bearer for progressive attitudes, even if sometimes I’m only doing it because I think I should. This is one situation, though, where I was pretty disappointed that writer/director Lukas Moodysson felt the need for his protagonists to adhere so closely to gender roles, especially after establishing them so strongly as these fiercely independent punks.
This early pubescent romance is certainly applicable to the subject matter, so perhaps it is not fair of me to be so critical of it. It just felt like the one aspect of the film that didn’t quite fit. The scene where all of this bottled-up emotion came out especially stood out. Luckily Hedvig is around to fix everything.
Ultimately We Are the Best! is an excellent picture about friendship and finding yourself. Any missteps Moodysson may make are easily made up for by the film’s major positives. I recommend the movie for anyone who was a pre-teen Swedish girl in the 80’s. The rest of you will probably enjoy it as well.