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Movie Review: ‘We Are the Best!’

(Magnolia Pictures)

"We Are the Best!"

Directed by Lukas Moodysson
Magnolia Pictures

By Brendan Hornbostel

May 29, 2014 12:00 a.m.

Punk is not dead.

At the very least, it’s still alive in the rebellious attitudes and short haircuts of three girls from 1980s Stockholm. In Lukas Moodysson’s 2013 Swedish drama “We Are the Best!,” adapted from the graphic novel “Never Goodnight,” by Moodysson’s wife Coco Moodysson, three preteens give a new meaning to the term “punk.”

The film follows the journey of outcast best friends Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin), who are alienated from their classmates and family because of their self-cut short hair and adamant persistence to be punks. When the girls are chided during gym class for noncooperation in conventional sports, they conclude that the best way to get back at their peers is through starting a punk band and writing a crass anti-establishment song called “Hate the Sport.”

The only problem: Neither the reserved Bobo nor the defiant Klara play any instruments. While their musicality lacks any foundation, the spirit behind the girls’ will is tremendous. After recruiting classmate and classical guitar virtuoso Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne) as the guitarist of their punk band, the three girls set out to rival any boy band that stands in their way, even when their size or lack of musical talent try to detract from them.

Throughout “We Are the Best!,” when the band is challenged by the male domination of the punk genre, the tenacity of each girl shines through more vibrantly. Whether tested through isolation, young, misguided love or reprimanding parents and adults, the girls maintain a strong embodiment of the punk spirit, fighting through every strict convention blocking the way.

When the band gets the chance to showcase its song “Hate the Sport” to an audience, the girls refuse to be labeled as a “girl band” – they’re just a punk band.

While the film’s plot doesn’t cover much ground beyond the band’s beginning and first performance, each character’s development tells a different tale of personal evolution.

For Bobo, coming to terms with her identity, amid doubts about her appearance and a rocky relationship with her promiscuous mother, becomes about the drive of punk individualism. Even when Bobo is barred from male attention and friendships, she resolves to find an importance in building her self-confidence. Similarly, when the reckless Klara must come to terms with her distrust of others, she finds the friendships of Hedvig and Bobo as the cornerstone of her rebellious character.

For Hedvig, however, the punk ethic does not come as easily. Raised in a Christian household and brought up to perform Sylvius Leopold Weiss on classical guitar, Hedvig transforms into the backbone of the group. When Bobo and Klara are divided by the attention of a preteen punk drummer, Hedvig is the voice of reason, bringing the girls together and reuniting them within a spirit of sisterhood.

The film’s bond between its misfit preteens comes together by the end, culminating in the band’s dogged determination to play its music, its way.

“We Are the Best!” demonstrates the conventional story of bonded friendship but under the guise of three rebellious punks, storming for answers to justify their inability to fit in. The film’s storyline is not only notable for its subject – three preteen girls playing music that those around them have strictly reserved for boys – but “We Are the Best!” also accomplishes the consternation of young, preserving spirits against a society’s stern rejection.

When it comes down to it, it’s the band’s anti-authoritarian punk spirit that champions over conventionality. For these three punk girls, it’s not just the sound that matters; it’s the spirit behind the music that pays off in the end.

– Brendan Hornbostel

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