Capturing the essence of youth is not an easy thing to achieve in any medium, but it’s something that Swedish director Lukas Moodysson has a good crack at in We Are The Best!, an adaptation of his wife’s graphic novel Never Goodnight about a trio of bored 12- and 13-year-old girls in 80s Stockholm who decide to start a punk band, despite having no instruments or musical knowledge.
Shot and performed in a naturalistic style, the film’s charms are pretty much impossible to resist, and it’s hard to imagine anyone not being won over by the performances of Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin and Liv LeMoyne as Bobo, Klara and Hedvig respectively. There are adults here and there, but this is the girls’ show, and they are more than capable of carrying the film’s lighthearted and frequently very funny script.
Their goal of creating a punk band defines much of the film’s comic material, and indeed its soundtrack, but the film is fundamentally about friendship and youth. The script has a very light touch in its treatment of the rites of passage the girls go through, and this helps to maintain the feeling that, apart from anything else, young children just enjoy having fun with each other. Klara’s precocious advocacy of the punk mindset is hilarious, but it’s her friendship with Bobo that defines her; the introduction of Hedvig into the group, and her acceptance, is also deftly and affectingly done.
The rare occasions when the film misses the mark tend to come from the scenes where the actresses are required to be ‘at play’, which is a tremendously difficult thing to recreate in any circumstance, and leads to one or two moments where events feel a tad forced, and the performances suffer as a result. There’s also a bit of a momentum dip in the final third when a minor and unconvincing conflict interferes with the group, but this is thankfully recovered for the rousing and charmingly low key finale.
We Are The Best! is a delightful film about the friendship between its three young protagonists, set to an amusing and convincing punk music backdrop. I spent half the running time with a grin on my face.