'We Are the Best!
': A Girls' Punk Rock Band

All three young actresses are terrific, performing with the kind of unguarded, unaffected naturalism that sometimes seems unthinkable in American movies.

We Are the Best! 
(Vi är bäst!)

Director: Lukas Moodysson
Cast: Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, Liv LeMoyne, Johan Liljemark, Mattias Wiberg
Rated: NR
Year: 2013
US date: 2014-05-30 (Limited release)
UK date: 2014-04-18 (General release)

Above: Lead actors Liv LeMoyne, Mira Barkhammar, and Mira Grosin. Photo: Memfis-Film / P-A Jörgensen

Lukas Moodysson's We Are the Best! (Vi är bäst!) starts on a scene showing the adult world and then zooms in to find its barely-teenage protagonists. This visual technique, used several times, locates Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) in a sea of guests mingling at her parents' house. By framing the movie's central characters with cut-off grown-up bodies, Moodysson emphasizes the smallness of their world.

Bobo's particular small world consists mainly of one other person, Klara (Mira Grosin), who sports a sort-of mohawk and espouses punk-rock philosophy. The girls, growing up in 1982 Stockholm, bond over their outsider status, enacting rituals of rebellion in sync, dressing androgynously, rolling their eyes at their gym teacher's reprimands, and revering punk even though they're told that the genre is dead.

Eventually they take their musical obsessions to the logical conclusion and form a band at their local community center, despite knowing nothing about playing music. They write lyrics for a song called "Hate the Sport" -- vilifying their gym class, naturally -- and attempt to bash out a rhythm and melody, to little avail. Neither the brash Klara nor the moodier Bobo discovers hidden abilities.

At least, not their own abilities. They do take notice of their classmate Ludvig (Liv LeMoyne), a quiet, religious girl who knows her way around a guitar. After Ludvig shows off her skills at a school talent show (receiving plenty of boos from the unforgiving crowd), Klara and Bobo aggressively recruit her for friendship and music, not necessarily in that order. Klara employs particularly confrontational tactics with her new friend, attempting to cure Ludvig's belief in God through rock music and haranguing arguments, and insisting on cutting her long blond hair into a less traditional shape. The result of that experiment throws their emerging bond into jeopardy, briefly.

We Are the Best! understands that parents and children can panic over a haircut, and understands equally well that such tensions can be dissolved into fits of giggles and horsing around. The movie features several of these near-vignettes. Moodysson, adapting an autobiographical comic book by his wife Coco Moodysson, stays true to the characters' lives by not imposing a needless plot. The three girls maintain a vague goal of getting their makeshift band in good enough shape to play a short set at another local venue. But before that can happen, they need to play their single original composition correctly, all the way through.

But this is not a movie about kids learning the value of intense practice and dedication. Instead, it's a movie about the major and minor tumults of growing up. The visual energy creates smooth transitions through crises that mutate into triumphs and vice versa, and Moodysson gets Klara, Ludvig, and Bobo's youthful impetuousness just right. In one sequence, they jump from desperately needing their own musical instruments (rather than the community center's stock equipment) to begging for money from strangers to really needing a snack.

These whiplash transitions and displays of bravado generate laughs, and for this reason We Are the Best! might be called a comedy. But the film takes the girls seriously, too, with deft and sometimes unflattering portrayals of Klara's bratty tendencies (she disdains her sweet, levelheaded, and open-minded parents) alongside Bobo's insecurities, which emerge when the trio goes on what turns out to be a lopsided group date with some boys in a punk band. By de-emphasizing usual narrative stakes, Moodysson gives his cast lots of room to explore behavioral details. All three young actresses are terrific, performing with the kind of unguarded, unaffected naturalism that sometimes seems unthinkable in American movies.

Despite eschewing a typical school-of-rock arc, the portraits and episodes of We Are the Best! build to a wonderfully satisfying climax that, in perfect coming-of-age fashion, solves everything in the moment and almost nothing in the long run. The movie squeezes real joy out of this contradiction, melding resolution and open endings together like musical genres that shouldn't fit, like the lingering of low-key noodling somehow played with the urgency of punk rock.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.