TIFF 2013: ‘We Are the Best!’ – pitch perfect writing and direction from Moodysson

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We Are the Best! (Vi är bäst!)
Written and directed by Lukas Moodysson
Sweden, 2013

When punk music first began to appear on the music scene in New York and London, the movement caused a veritable explosion. Punks were dirty, they swore, they spat, hated everyone in charge and didn’t care what anyone thought of them. The word ‘punk’ means a hoodlum or worthless person. Punk music embraced this as a point of pride. The punk movement was exciting but from the beginning it was a man’s world. This is the world that Lukas Moodysson’s heroines seek to change with their music in We Are the Best!

Moodysson’s newest film tells the story of Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin), two 13 year-old best friends and die-hard punk fans growing up in 1982 Stockholm. Unlike the punks that paved the way, Bobo and Klara have parents that are on the leftist side of the political spectrum and actually support their pursuits, sometimes embarrassingly so. Bobo and Klara spend their afternoons at a youth centre where hard rock band Iron Fist, made up of a group of tyrannical older boys, reigns supreme. But one day Bobo and Klara decide enough’s enough and they resolve to form their own band, to get back at the boys in Iron Fist. They begin writing their first song “Hate the Sport”, but realizing that they don’t yet have any musical talent, they recruit school outcast and guitar virtuoso Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne) to help them out. In return for her help, they resolve to lead her away from the path of Christianity and righteousness and convert her to a leftist worldview.

With We Are the Best!, art house darling Lukas Moodysson has created a truly original and accurate portrayal of what it means to be a 13 year-old girl and just want to be taken seriously. In one scene, the youth centre’s director describes the group as a “girl band” and is unable to understand why the girls protest so vehemently that they’re just a “band”, not a “girl band”. They just want to be taken as seriously as Iron Fist, not be laughed off as some silly little girly project.

We Are the Best! strikes a perfect balance between being absolutely hilarious and truly heartwarming. The film’s heart comes from the friendship between these three girls, and one would be hard-pressed to find a better portrayal of young female friendship than in this film. Combining a pitch perfect script and direction from Moodysson, and precociously hilarious and heartfelt performances from the three protagonists, this is a coming-of-age film that stands right up there with classics of the genre. A quote from one such classic comes to mind: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?” With We Are the Best! Moodysson and company have truly illustrated this quotation perfectly for a new generation of kids and adults alike.

– Laura Holtebrinck

The Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 5th to 15th, 2013. For a complete schedule of films, screening times, and ticket information, please visit the official site.

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