Ragged, rambunctious, vibrant, and vivacious, We Are the Best! is a quiet riot of sheer moviegoing pleasure; a tender tribute to the bittersweet tumult of adolescence; and an exhilarating blast full of heart and punk rock. It’s a big deal that will be winning hearts and minds for a long time to come.
In 1982 Stockholm, 13-year-olds Bobo and Klara – social outcasts and musical aspirants – decide to start a punk band. They later rope in Hedvig, a naturally talented guitarist, convincing her to mutilate her hair and promising each other that they will influence her away from her Christian faith. It culminates in a charity concert showdown that displays what happens when personal style and outrage fuse in an all-encompassing manifesto.
Arthouse writer-director Lukas Moodysson (Together, Lilya 4-Ever) proved his adeptness at working with young actors in his first three features. In We Are the Best!, he provides an honestly exuberant peek into the secret lives of girls, a uniformly gentle ode to growing up, and an infectiously funny coming-of-age story, once again led by excellent performances from his cast.
Silly, touching, and adorable down to the spiky mohawks, the movie jolts to life with outbursts of hostility or moments of gleeful female bonding. Indeed, it’s one of the funniest and happiest movies I’ve ever seen about early adolescent girls and their wayward, fitful joyousness. Bubbly, charged, and unpatronizing, it’s a delightful snapshot and celebration of female friendship at that age, from the giddy highs to the melancholy lows, from the sustaining bonds to the jealousies and stinging betrayals, with a few playful punches thrown in.
Brash and sweetly joyous, We Are the Best! captures perfectly the waiting to become something that’s intertwined with the desire to make something, to leave your mark on the world in some small way. It’s awash with the unfettered inspiration that one relishes before self-criticism and self-doubt kicks in, when kids with throbbing hearts and incompletely wired brains are full of passion and blithe illogic.
It’s also refreshingly sensitive to gender while transcending it. What unites the three clashing heroines is their resistance to conventional cliques and schoolhouse conformity. The trio’s spirit will have you moshing in your seat. By the time they chant the film’s titular mantra, not only do we feel like it’s true, but like we’ve earned the right to chant along. A colleague said it best: you’d have to have a heart of Arctic ice to reach the end not smiling with joy.
Sure, it’s a scruffy, anarchic picture that gets better as it goes along, and it can be shapeless and uneventful in its faithfulness to teenage aimlessness. But Moodysson’s sweet abandon is so infectious, it’s almost enough to leave you wanting to form your own punk band upon leaving the theater.