“Hate the sport!”
Directed and written by Lukas Moodysson, and based on a comic book that was written by Coco Moodysson, We Are the Best is an 80’s punk-rock tale of childhood, friendship and rebellion, embracing individualism and coming to terms with your life. A Swedish drama set in Stockholm in the 1980’s, it is as human a drama you will find, and one that looks at life in a subtle way, like we’re a fly on it’s wall, looking in quietly. It’s a tale of outsiders and their lives, and one that feels fresh and compelling from it’s opening scene.
Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) are two thirteen year old girls who have a strong friendship, and they don’t look like the rest of their school. One of them has boyish short hair, and the other a Mohawk, and they embrace punk rock even though they are told by their peers that the genre is dead. Through boredom and revenge against a band who mistreat them at their local youth centre, Bobo and Klara decide to start a band and play punk rock, but they don’t know how to play any instruments. Befriending the older, wiser and less punk-inclined Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne) who is a talented guitarist in their school, the three girls practice their music, become interested in boys, rebel against the system and deal with their family lives, hoping to one day be good enough to play their songs in front of a crowd.
The writing in this film is excellent, and its delivery by its young and fairly inexperienced cast is just as good. There is such an energy and vibrant spirit here, with the three girls delivering authentic feeling dialogue and expressions throughout their story. Grosin, as Klara, the Mohawk wearing free-spirit of the film, is great, her lack of calm, and her honesty, brings about a character that is wreckless at times, but trustworthy and good-hearted. Barkhammar, as Bobo, offers a more thoughtful, less outgoing character, someone who questions herself constantly and doesn’t seem to know how to deal with most of the situations she finds herself in. Hedvig, played by LeMoyne, is the more mature of the three, older and with a better knowledge of things, she offers a helping hand to her two young friends, acting, at times, like a referee to their sisterly rows. The chemistry between the three girls is palpable and enjoyable, they seem like friends, it doesn’t feel forced or awkward, from their simple smiles to the rolling of their eyes, their friendship, through its tests, feels genuine, and it goes a long way to making the film feel that much better.
The music is top notch, with a Swedish punk soundtrack atop the band practice sounds that the three girls make. The music plays a character itself, a window of rebellion for the girls who don’t like what they see when they look at the popular things happening at their school. Disco is taking over the landscape of music, girls are fluffing up their hair and wearing spandex on stage, and all Bobo, Klara and Hedvig want to do is push their young middle fingers into the face of it all. There is a scene in which Bobo and Klara are forced, by their P.E teacher, to run laps around the gymnasium, and this is where the two “write” their first song, a song that we hear evolve as the film progresses, with Klara bellowing into the microphone, “hate the sport, hate the sport…”
The lives of the three girls is looked at in a humanised way, we see their homelife, their life at school and their life with each other. We see how different, yet similar, their lives at home are and how the things that happen with their parents are shaping them as people. The scenes of conversation are edited and spoken in such a way that it feels real and doesn’t sound like people reading from a script, contained and trapped under strict writing. The ad-libbed sense that comes from the interactions is, in my view, one of the strongest elements of the film. It has a real buzz of life to it, and a light-hearted series of events that anyone who was a misfit, an outsider or someone who rebelled in some way as a child or young adult will be able to relate to. Director and writer, Moodysson, whose previous films were much darker and less aprroachable, has done a great job of adapting his style yet keeping his values with this. The passionate and opinionated nature of punk rock feels real and surely much of that is due to Moodysson and the fact that the film is based on the comic book, Never Goodnight, that his wife, Coco, writes, based on the experiences of her youth.
There are some scenes that are laugh-out-loud funny, some that are moving and sad, and some that are just simply joyous. The standout scenes, in many ways, are the musical ones, with the girls trying to improve musically without compromising their punk values. One scene where Hedvig plays acoustic guitar while singing to a song by KSMB, a Swedish punk band, is memorable, and uplifting. It is one of those films where, through it all, you can’t help but smile. It is also worth noting that the film should appeal to a wide range of people, from young adults and teenagers, right up to adults, with those who have a connection to the attitude of gritting their teeth at life being likely to get the biggest kick out of it.
If you’ve ever felt the need to raise your fist and your finger in the air and spit in the eye of social norms, if you’ve ever felt opposed to sport, make-up, disco or organised religion, allow the spirit of punk rock, residing in the souls of three energetic Swedish kids, to take over your life for an hour and a half. A tremendous cast full of vigour, and a director who is obviously fond of things feeling human and real, We Are the Best might not just be an empty claim.
We Are the Best is available on Netflix (UK) now.