Two 12-year-old girls are upset with the world around them and want to break free. The year is 1980, the place is Stockholm, Sweden, and they want to join the punk scene. They will not let the lack of musical instruments or knowledge of how to play them stand in their way. No self-respecting punk rocker would. Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) have the attitude, and that’s all that matters.

Based on the graphic novel by Coco Moodysson, We Are The Best!, begins with the friendship of Bobo and Klara. Both come from similar backgrounds, living in relatively happy homes and living relatively affluent lives. They couldn’t hate it more. Their desire to start a punk band is more a teenage impulse to act out rather than a reaction to a grave tragedy that has befallen them. If Bobo and Klara were asked, “Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?” Their response wouldn’t have been, “Whadda got?” but “Why not?”

Lucky for them, the local community center has musical equipment and rehearsal space for them to practice. Klara slides behind the drums, Bobo rocks the bass, and a cacophony of noise and senseless banging begins. Through some trial and error, they sort of figure out a skeleton of a song, but if they want to go anywhere, they are going to need a guitarist.

The girls scout Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), a classically trained guitarist from a Christian family. Bobo and Klara decide that they can turn her if they recruit her, and Hedvig excitedly joins. Joining the band not only gives her a chance to exhibit her talents but to teach Bobo and Klara as well. Bobo is destined to become the Sid Vicious of the group, and Hedvig is clearly the mother and caretaker.

Under Hedvig’s guidance, the trio learns some basic song structure, and in no time at all, they are playing punk rock. And it’s not terrible. In fact, it’s better than most of the crap the male musicians are trying to pawn off, and their motives switch from trying to help the girls to following in their wake. There are a lot of hangers-on in the music industry, and Stockholm, Sweden in the 80s was no different.

The climax, and best scene in the movie, is when the girls give their first public performances are greeted with jeers and water bottles flung at them. The angry crowd gets up and spits on them. Bobo, Klara, and Hedvig couldn’t be happier. They have been baptized in the fires of punk rock, and they chant anti-establishment slogans on the bus ride home. They have made it, they are punk rockers, and they are the best!

Writer/director Lukas Moodysson adapts his wife’s graphic novel into a heartfelt look at three teenagers who have not yet come of age but are on their way. They are almost there; they are so close. Much like their lack of real forces to rebel against, they also lack any real-world experience and emotions to draw on and express. Instead, what Bobo, Klara, and Hedvig do express is something much more pure and exciting: the desire to be young and have fun.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

We Are the Best! (Vi är bäst!)
Written & Directed by: Lukas Moodysson
Adapted from the graphic novel by: Coco Moodysson
Produced by: Lars Jönsson
Starring: Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, Liv LeMoyne
Magnolia Pictures, Not Rated, Running time 102 minutes, Released June 20, 2014

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