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New Release Review - We Are the Best!

A trio of 13-year-old girls form a punk band in eighties Stockholm.

Directed by: Lukas Moodysson
Starring: Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, Liv LeMoyne


Bobo (Barkhammar) and Klara (Grosin) are 13-year-old's living in eighties Stockholm; Bobo is socially awkward and introspective, while Klara is rebellious and outgoing. They share a love of Swedish punk music and decide on a whim to form their own band. There's one major problem, however: neither of the girls can play an instrument. Befriending Hedvig (LeMoyne), a lonely girl, shunned by her peers because of her Christian beliefs, who just happens to be a gifted guitarist, Bobo and Klara are taught basic musical skills by their new friend. Using the instruments made available at a local youth center, the trio gain entry into a local 'Battle of the Bands' competition, where they will face their sworn enemies, heavy metal band Iron Fist.
Unless you had the misfortune of being an African child soldier or an Asian garment worker, chances are you never learned any valuable life lessons when you were 13. Why is it then that western films featuring protagonists of this age group always favor a coming of age plot? How many of us can genuinely say we "came of age", whatever that phrase actually means, in our early teens? When you're 13, adults might try their best to impart wisdom and teach you life lessons, but if you're the average teen you'll ignore it, as at that age you think you know more than anyone else. Frankly, that's how it should be, because despite what parents and teachers might tell you, nothing matters a damn at that point in your life, and you shouldn't take anything too seriously.
The protagonists of Moodysson's latest comic gem are serious about not being serious. Their decision to form a band is no more than a whim, and serves as merely a macguffin for the film. Were this a Hollywood movie, our trio would go on to become great musicians, and the story's motivation would be all about getting us to root for them in the climactic battle of the bands. But pretty early into We Are the Best! we realize Moodysson has made a movie about average teens, but it's certainly not your average teen movie. The film doesn't leave you wondering if these girls might go onto future musical success, as it's far more likely they'll have grown bored with punk by their 14th birthdays. These girls live life three chords at a time.
Attempting to get a moral point across to Bobo and Klara, Hedvig's Christian mother, irate at the punk haircut the girls have inflicted on her daughter, grows frustrated when it fails to sink into their adolescent minds. In this story, nobody learns any life lessons, nobody comes of age, and our heroes don't undergo a "journey". By the end of the movie, apart from Hedvig's new haircut, they're no different from the girls we met at the beginning. Scriptwriting gurus will hate this film. Everyone else will love it.
Moodysson has a gift for presenting us with immensely likable characters, none more so than the central trio here. Within minutes you feel like you've known these girls for a long time, as if you're recovering from amnesia and beginning to recall some long running beloved TV show. The performances Moodysson has wrought from his young stars are incredible and all three nascent careers will likely be watched with interest by film-makers from Sweden and beyond. When the movie ends you're left wanting to go on more haphazard adventures with them, so infectious is their spirit. 
I'm not generally one for childhood nostalgia but We Are the Best! left me in a melancholy mood, thinking about the friends I myself had at that age, a little sad that I would never know what it's like to be 13 again. I can't revisit my own childhood, but over the coming years I'll certainly revisit that of Bobo, Klara and Hedvig. 
Adapting a comic book created by his wife, Coco, Moodysson has given us arguably the most enjoyable movie ever made about childhood, and certainly the most honest. 
9/10


Eric Hillis

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