A Punk Rock Prayer To Teenage Spirit. Moodysson Duo Delivers Gold.
Writer/director Lukas Moodysson, a champ on the Swedish indie scene, delivers a triumphantly joyous ode to teenage rebellion with his latest offering, We Are The Best! (Vi Ar Bast!), adapted from the graphic novel Never Goodnight by his partner Coco, that recalls the playfulness and emotional honesty of his 1998 film Show Me Love (Fucking Amal).
Set in Stockholm in 1982, it’s a gloriously intimate portrayal of three 13-year-olds’ obsession with punk rock. There’s Bobo (Mira Barkhammar), the geeky and serious outsider with glasses and a spike cut that has a rock solid bond with the more outspoken (Mira Grosin) whose elven-face is admirably offset with a mighty mohawk. Fed up with school and their annoying parents, plus a bunch of blonde teens who claim punk is dead, they decide to form their own punk band, despite no noticeable talent for instruments, writing or, indeed, any discernible focus.
Going head-to-head with burly, longhaired blokes in a death metal band dubbed Iron Fist band for rehearsal time at the local youth centre, Bobo and Klara make for a fearless and inventive duo, but with big, soft hearts. Realising they need to beef up their musical credentials, they adopt lonely Christian girl Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), taking her under their wings only partly because she can actually play guitar. Despite a clash of belief systems, what unfolds between the newly formed trio is quite gorgeous to behold as Moodysson guides us gently and warmly through Coco’s engaging exploration of friendship and fledgling notions of identity.
While nothing particularly dramatic happens, beyond a spot of jealous in-fighting over romantic affections with a rival boy punk band with hilarious anti-Reagan lyrics, and a fun road trip to a neighbouring town’s community hall battle of the bands, every moment is utterly captivating and crackles with a riotous lust for life.
A scene with Hedvig’s mum less-than-impressed with Bobo and Klara after they’ve press-ganged her daughter into a savage haircut is comic gold, as is Klara’s surreal clarinet-playing father who pops up to demonstrate his affinity with tuneful deficiency. While there’s plenty of dubious behaviour on show from the adults, particularly Bobo’s divorcee mum, there’s no heavy-handed moralising here, just big, big love. It’s beautiful movie that joyfully reinforces the power of independent thought and mates rating above all else, plus the soundtrack totally rocks.
Stephen A Russell