DIR/WRI: Lukas Moodysson • PRO: Lars Jönsson • DOP: Ulf Brantås • ED: Michal Leszczylowski • DES: Paola Hölmer • CAST: Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, Liv LeMoyne, Anna Rydgren, David Dencik
We Are the Best! is the latest film from Swedish filmmaker Lukas Moodysson, director of such films as Lilya 4-ever (2002) and Mammoth (2009). The film – an adaptation of his wife Coco’s graphic novel Never Goodnight – is set in Sweden in 1982 and comprises the story of Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and her friend Klara (Mira Grosin), who wear their hair short and above all, love punk music.
Fed up at how they are being treated at their local youth centre, the two girls decide to book a slot in the centre’s music room and, despite not knowing how to play an instrument, start a band. Soon after, they recruit a religious girl, Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), whose classical guitar playing may not go down well at the school concert, but whose ability to actually play an instrument seems good enough for Bobo and Klara. While Bobo is uncertain of herself, Klara ever self-assured and Hedvig quietly confident. We Are the Best! charts the girls’ evolution into a band but, at the core, is a narrative about girlhood and female friendship.
In fact, it was incredibly refreshing to see a film in which music forms a central part in the lives of three young pre-teen girls; figures that are usually depicted as being fans of bands, but never actually being in them. Indeed, there are so few representations of girlhood as boisterous, noisy, in-your-face and vibrant that this film really stood out in this regard. However, rather than make it seem as though being a pre-teen punk girl is somehow easy, We Are the Best! highlights the pressure put on young women to conform to an ideal standard of beauty, albeit in a subtle fashion. In one rather poignant scene, Bobo’s dawning realisation that her appearance might matter in life, results in her spitting at her reflection in the mirror.
In We Are the Best! female friendship is not depicted as being catty or divisive, rather it is enriching, inclusive and encouraging. One segment in the film navigates the thorny issue of boys versus best friends but, rather than fating female friendship to being inevitably tricky, the film – like the girls’ friendship – marches on decisively; being in their band is ultimately more important than fighting over a punk heartthrob from a neighbouring band.
The girls are mocked and patronised by those around them with insults ranging from “punk is dead” to calling them a “girl band” to insisting on showing Hedwig how to play an instrument that she has been playing for years. However, it is their friendship that ultimately keeps them going, not to mention their (rather catchy) song “Hate the Sport”. The film is insightful, full of humour and touching in many ways. Perhaps being the only female in the room at the time it was screened, this film meant slightly more to me in the sense that I was incredibly grateful to finally witness an accurate and engaging depiction of girlhood and of female friendship on screen. I certainly came out of the film smiling. We are the Best! truly is the best.
15A (See IFCO for details)
We Are the Best! is released on 18th April 2014