We Are the Best! (Lukas Moodysson, 2013)
It’s hard to begrudge a tween punk band who create a rebellious song about their hatred for school sport. Right on sisters! In Lukas Moodysson’s We Are the Best!, androgynous seventh graders Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) refuse to accept that punk is dead in 1982 Sweden. On a whim they decide to start up a band, despite having never previously picked up an instrument. Needing some help, they recruit good Christian girl Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), an experienced acoustic guitar player. Together they navigate their early adolescence while creating some not great music.
I’ve never quite got the punk style – the hair and the clothes seem like an attempt at demonstrating uniqueness, and yet most punks conform to a general punk look, which ends up being somewhat contradictory. Bobo and Klara are interested primarily in punk as a music genre, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to fit the punk type, both in their hairstyles and their anti-establishment attitude which is shown to be unsurprisingly naïve. That Hedvig is Christian makes her an even better fit for the band in Klara’s eyes – not for reasons of diversity, but so that they can attempt to corrupt her and gain a sense of achievement in doing so.
Klara is the headstrong leader – her behaviour borders on bullying (even though she does seem to care about her friends), and she is the obvious rebel of the group. Bobo, meanwhile, is not quite as sure of herself – she plays second fiddle to Klara, and her genuine torment in establishing her own identity is readily apparent. While wanting to rock an androgynous look, she also seems desperate to retain a feminine identity. She wants boys to find her attractive and she worries about not being pretty enough, comparing herself unfavourably against the confident Klara. On first glance these look like girls with an “I don’t give a shit” attitude, but under the façade they seem to care quite a bit. As we all do. I think We Are the Best! may in fact portray punks quite accurately in this respect.
I don’t usually mind subtitles, but these ones were horrible. For some reason they felt the need to show two lines of dialogue (often by different characters) at a time, even when there was a pause between the two. It was confusing and irritating. The fast-paced editing was similarly annoying. Just calm the hell down. I found myself becoming bored by this film, even though the characters and themes were really interesting. Whether that’s the direction, the editing, the tendency for some of the girls to mumble their way through their lines, or all of the above is unclear. Nevertheless, I had some fun watching these girls stick it to the man.