There are complicated ways to analyze Lukas Moodysson’s We Are the Best!, and then there is this: It’s hard to imagine another movie this year that will make me smile as hard as this movie did pretty much from start to finish.
Based on a semi-autobiographical graphic novel series by Moodysson’s wife, this almost indescribably charming tale takes us to 1982 Stockholm, where middle-school pals Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) find themselves somewhat outcast as devotees of punk rock in a world turned to New Wave. Then, at the local youth center, they find a bass and drum available for use in a rehearsal space. And despite having no musical experience at all, they decide to start a band, eventually accompanied by shy, Christian classmate Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne).
What follows is largely episodic, following the girls on misadventures both specific to their musical interests—like writing their first song based on their mutual loathing of gym class, “Hate the Sport”—and recognizable to those who grew up anywhere and anywhen. When Bobo and Klara start to fight over having a crush on the same boy, it resonates with all the strains on female friendships caused by evolving adolescent relationships, and the status dynamics of the friend who’s the follower pushing back against the friend who’s the leader.
But even more wonderfully, Best! captures its young protagonists as girls stepping back and forth across the line of being young women, with all the tangled, often contradictory accompanying emotions. They may be experimenting with boys and dropping F-bombs, but they’ll still cry when they get a cut on their hand, or make a snap decision to spend the money they’d panhandled to buy an electric guitar on ice cream instead. The beautifully authentic performances by the three bandmates capture that brief life moment when nearly everything can feel like a scary, joyous act of rebellion.
WE ARE THE BEST!
Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, Liv LeMoyne