We Are the Best! takes place during the early 80s in Stockholm, Sweden. It involves three girls and details their friendship during junior high. It’s a rare type of a film, a film where its central characters are young women interacting with each other, trying to make sense of their home and school lives. Call it an unfortunate virtue, but it is difficult to recall any film of this type that concerns itself solely with its feminine perspective. Sheer virtue alone may not make it a film worth seeking, but thankfully director Lukas Moodysson’s picture is brimming with ecstatic energy. It is a joyous exercise that dares to have the novelty of offering three compelling female roles.
Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) is the triad’s most fluid and concerning of characters. Sporting an unflattering punk haircut, she’s unsure of her abilities but attuned to her emotions. Her reluctance causes her to take her leads from Klara (Mira Grosin). Klara is considerably more confident than Bobo, which in itself can be misconstrued as curt. She is certainly more pragmatic and blunt, but nevertheless loyal to their friendship. The third is Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne). As a formally trained musician, her talents draw Bobo and Klara. The three come together as friends of circumstance. None of them had much in common before they met (you gather that Bobo was a considerably different child before befriending Klara), but their mutual alienation from the conventional children of their school unite them to form a punk rock band.
Being unfamiliar with Moodysson’s previous films, his style struck me as a more restrained version of the Duplass brothers. This is to say that its handheld attributes and perpetual zooming shape how one digests the picture’s images. Interestingly enough, this approach blends effectively with the content of the material, as the looseness of the film’s images provokes a palpable sense of intimacy between the young women. This is especially the case during the picture’s rehearsal portions. The three are confined to a close-quarters rehearsal room where they relish in each other’s company while trying to work out the kinks of their song. Moodysson’s loose framing and sporadic editing pattern mimic the process of these women trying to discover their sound.
The summer blockbuster season is largely dominated by male-oriented action films (even the good ones, like Edge of Tomorrow, treats its female characters as a perfunctory cog to its male perspective). We Are the Best! may be another commendable but futile piece of summer counterprogramming, but it remains an exceedingly endearing piece that resists any and all labels. It is, in essence, a pure delight and the ideal remedy for a summer that so consistently highlights the bombast through a solely male perspective.