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We Are the Best!
Director Lukas Moodysson may be best known for the harrowingly beautiful Lilya 4-Ever and the strictly harrowing A Hole in My Heart, but his new comedy We Are The Best! returns him to the gentler (though still unvarnished) style of his earliest coming-of-age films, Show Me Love and Together. Adapting his wife Coco's semi-autobiographical graphic novel, Moodysson has created a joyful portrait of 7th grade rebellion that is electrifying in its simplicity.
Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) are 13-year-old Swedish punks. Their classmates rag on them -- claiming their androgynous hairstyles aren't authentic and reminding them that punk is dead (it's 1982, after all) -- but Bobo and Klara don't let that get them down. They decide to start a band in the local rec center's rehearsal space to combat all the metal guitar wankery that normally spills out from those walls. Trouble is, like most average middle-schoolers, they can't play a lick. When they see Christian outcast Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne) performing a difficult classical guitar piece at the school talent show, they decide they must add her to the band. Soon, the trio are jamming on an anti-gym-class screed titled, "Hate the Sport."
The story is secondary to scenes of the girls hanging out and doing dumb stuff, like impulsively cutting Hedvig's long hair, bugging people on the street for money so they can buy an electric guitar but then just spending it on sweets, or getting drunk on Klara's brother's booze and then puking on his records. In fact, while many filmmakers would make the girls' formation of the band into a pseudo-meaningful barometer of their journey toward self-actualization (or whatever), We Are The Best! just treats it realistically, as an outlet for the characters' frustration and the catalyst for the new friendship that anchors the movie.
And while the movie subtly hints every so often that the girls are punks without fully understanding what that actually means, it doesn't condescend or belittle the full-blooded emotions which lead an alienated teen to vehemently denounce Abba or Scorpions or whatever else the wankers at school are into.
Though the film briefly touches on the less-than-ideal home lives of its characters, it never turns into a wallow in kitchen-sink melodrama. These scenes just add the right dash of background to give us a sense of where our heroines are coming from.
We Are The Best! is charming and low-key, with plenty of human moments to inspire both cringes and smiles of recognition.
The AVC-encoded 1080p 1.85:1 video nicely translates this shot-on-film production, with excellent fine detail reproduction and no discernible compression issues. The style calls for the color palette to be a tad desaturated -- leaning toward whites and beiges -- but skin tones look good and colorful objects, like Klara's red sweater, still look relatively vibrant.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 Swedish audio (with optional English subtitles) is well-mixed to give the film a realistic ambience. The surround speakers don't typically come into play, except during some of the vintage punk rock music cues, but that makes sense, considering the modest scope of the film. Other subtitle options: English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles.
An irresistible portrait of restless youth. Sure, it's maybe a bit light on dramatic complications, but that suits the specificity of this particular coming-of-age story. Recommended.
Justin Remer is a filmmaker, oddball musician, and frequent wearer of beards. His new single, Don\'t Depend on Me, is now available to stream or download on Bandcamp, Spotify, Amazon, Apple, and wherever else fine music is enjoyed.