We are the Best!
18th April 2014
Mira & Mira
31st January 2014
Swedish punk eh? Now there’s a scene. We’re clearly bluffing. Ask us to name a punk band and we might get a couple. But that’s only really because the Russians got all weird about those girls in the church. Beyond that, we’re clueless. But we’re willing to give it a look…
To be fair, Swedish punk isn’t particularly the main theme of We are the Best! It’s more a straightforward buddies doing there best whilst not exactly fitting in to the conventional. It just happens to be set in Sweden. At the start of the 80’s when punk is officially dead. Fortunately, no matter how many times Bobo and Klara get told this (by hilariously permed blond girls), they’re not going to take that lying down.
Set in Stockholm back in the time of far too much denim and the rise of The Human League and er, Bucks Fizz, the movie picks up with Bobo and Klara, two very alternatively haired 13 year old girls who hang out, occasionally attempt school work and listen to punk music. They spend a lot of time on the phone to each other, Bobo either wondering where her errant mother is or wishing she would leave the flat and take her loud friends with her and Klara doing her best to avoid the good natured lunatics who make up her family. Struggling with the simple minded banter of their cohorts at school, they find themselves retreating to a youth club, only to have their peace disturbed by Iron Fist, the local rising stars of rock. An administration mix-up later and the determined girls have kicked the Fist out of the rehearsal room and are busy setting up their own punk band. Despite having no instruments and not a clue how to play. Spotting an opportunity at a school show, the girls pal up with fellow social outcast (and perceived God-freak) Hedvig who just so happens to be a guitar genius….
Based on a comic book you won’t have read by Coco Moodysson a writer you won’t have heard of, Lukas Moodysson’s film is a testament to youthful determination and watching it you will be full of admiration for characters that stubbornly insist on being their own people, despite going through all the travails that everyone goes through at 13. Though granted few of us will have families this odd. Painting Sweden in a delightfully murky 80’s palette, there are moments of bleak beauty in a film that is anything but bleak. The girls trek out to the suburbs to meet an aspiring young punk band and climb to the roof of the housing development, bleak snow brilliantly lit in the background.
The two central actresses, Mira Barkhammar and Mire Grosin are wonderful as the borderline self loathing Bobo and the more upfront Klara. Liv LeMoyne has a less obviously central role but her Hedvig is the catalyst for the girls’ growth as a band (particularly as she’s the only one who can actually play an instrument). The adults are mere bit parts in this piece, some bouncing in and out some to demonstrate how quickly the girls must grow up, some to demonstrate how absurd adults are. All three girls put in impressive mature performances, belying their youth. Bobo in particular is a troubled character, dealing with her largely drunken and frequent absent mother with a mixture of real discomfort (when the house is full of loudly partying grown ups) and resignation (when she returns from school to an empty house and a note pointing out that there are fish sticks in the freezer). Constantly uneasy with her appearance, even Klara’s brother’s attempts to help her can’t stop her staring into the mirror and spitting at herself.
If that sounds a bit grim, then We are the Best! is anything but. Moodysson has stated that he ‘wanted to make a film showing that life, despite all the evidence to the contrary, is worth living’. He has done exactly that. The girls get abused by rock bands, get left out in the rain by parents, throw up at parties, fall out with each other over boys and generally have the time of their lives. The movie culminates in a laugh out loud scene as the girls fledgling punk band (or girl band as the grown ups and rockers insist on calling it) make their debut at the annual talent show in Västerås. I won’t spoil it but it’s safe to say that it’s unlikely they’ll be invited back. Not that they care, they have punk and they have each other. And after all, it’s only Västerås…..
Check out the trailer here.