We Are the Best
* * *
Cast: Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, Liv LeMoyne, Johan Liljemark, Mattias Wiberg, Jonathan Salmonsson
Director: Lukas Moodysson
Running time: 1:42
Rated: Not rated The middle school years — that transition age from reckless youth to reckless young adult — isn’t easy to portray, and that might be why most films about kids settle on being either all carefree or all catharsis.
The film “We Are The Best” — set in 1980s-era Sweden — doesn’t care about choosing from those two sides of the coin and creates its own currency based on spontaneous reaction. The film’s anthem, “Hate the Sport,” stems from the two main characters being forced into another lame PE team activity. And the all-female punk band Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) form begins when a high-school metal band assumes territorial rights to the public studio space.
The message: If you’re aware of your surroundings and engage wisely, you can save yourself from the idle, time-killing habits that populate adolescence.
Bobo and Klara know this and the story showcases their opportunism. Some taciturn wallflower classmate (Liv LeMoyne) who performs the same classical guitar piece at each annual assembly can (and does) become a necessary addition to their band and a close friend.
The film doesn’t place the girls’ ambition on a pedestal and we’re all the better for it. After all, it’s a delicate age when cutting your finger can be a tragedy that only a group hug from friends can heal.
One of the film’s great moments comes when the girls make a trek to the suburbs to visit similar-age punk band boys they discovered. In a tightly packed practice room, the boys play their simple anti-Reagan song in a bid to impress, but the girls receive the performance from a critical, quiet distance instead of being starry-eyed.
Unlike a typical American film, Swedish parents and adults are presented as figures of authority. There are no angry caricatures and the teens are treated as young, intelligent adults.
To those concerned that the Scandinavian humor might not translate well, director Lukas Moodysson will put you right at ease. His ability to skewer quirky leftists in 2000’s “Together” is reminiscent of television comedy “Portlandia,” and his wandering camera can highlight the awkward moments with “The Office”-level precision.
Recommended for: Rebels at heart, teens and the adults that deal with them, “Freaks and Geeks” fans.