WE ARE THE BEST. Starring: Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin and Liv LeMoyne. Directed by Lukas Moodysson. Rated MA 15+ . Restricted (Strong coarse language). 102 min.
This subtitled Swedish-Danish drama is based on the semi-autobiographical novel, "Never Goodnight", by Coco Moodysson (the wife of the Director) about three rebellious young children growing up in 1982 in Stockholm, Sweden.
Klara (Mira Grosin), who has an attention grabbing mohawk haircut, and her best friend Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) are misfits in society and they are searching for meaning in life. Suffering from a heavy dose of adolescent angst, they aim to be nonconformists, and deliberately style themselves as boys. They think that looking like boys will communicate defiant resistance, but we never know exactly what they are resisting.
With no instruments, or obvious musical talent, the two girls decide to set up a small all boy-all girl punk band and they recruit a shy, talented guitarist, Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne) to join them. Hedvig's obvious Christian piety is awkward for them, but they offer her friendship to which she responds. They know that everyone around them is saying that punk music is dead, but the girls want to prove the world is wrong. Not surprisingly, they are considered strange. They think their band tells everyone "we are the best", but practically everyone thinks that can't be the case.
This a movie that is hard to resist. It dives straight into the turbulent emotional lives of three punk girls completely honestly and spontaneously. Without pretension, it films them from their point of view and does not attempt to filter their experience through any adult perspective. The result is incredibly natural. The movie might play ear-grinding, harsh music, but it captures the irrepressible life of three misfits in a totally engaging way. It is a film about three girls forming a friendship, looking for an identity to match it, and being secure enough in that identity to be able to joyfully share things with each other.
There is a vitality about the whole movie that is amazingly fresh, and the three
lead performances are exceptional. It is almost as if the three girls had no awareness at all of a camera looking at them, or the demands of any script.
The acting of each of the girls effectively projects the pain of adolescents desperately coping with a seemingly stable society, and trying to handle the explosive tension and energy inside them. The three girls take out their frustrations on the society around them (especially, the conforming members of it), their parents, and their teachers at school who find it difficult to control them. The film concludes with their teachers declaring the girls to be impossible. We learn nothing about what lies beyond that judgement, but at the end of the movie when the girls say "it doesn't matter what you say, we are the best" it is hard not to share enthusiastically in the spirit of their rebellion.
The film spends some time with the girls' troubled parents at home. Their parents are argumentative, over-zealous, separated, lonely, or reduced to playing "spin the bottle" at home parties. Bobo and Klara cut Hedvig's flowing blond hair to give her a punk look. Hedvig's mother is upset, but agrees to her daughter's makeover if Klara and Bobo promise to accompany her to church. Klara tries to compel Hedvig to give up her Christian faith "to influence her away from God", and Hedvig is embarrassed by what her mother has done. The film swipes at religion, but it communicates the aimlessness of the youths and their need for personal contact in a very authentic way. One doesn't know what the girls will become, because the film concentrates so heavily on adolescent frustrations, but the film is insightful enough to anticipate future tensions in their adult relationships. Two of the girls are attracted, for example, to the same punk boy, and their loyalty to each other for the first time is tested sorely.
This is a light, engaging comedy with a lot of hand-held camera work, and smart direction. The movie has been produced and directed intentionally to have a high energy look. The film, for instance, literally zig zags across the lives of the three girls. For each of them, it is a coming-of-age tale that presents the viewer with a touching, spirited celebration of teenage anarchy, and it is as natural a piece of movie-making as one is ever likely to encounter.
Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting
Released September 18th., 2014