Flix is a weekly series that reviews a movie available on Netflix. This week, I review the 2013 film “We Are the Best!”
Remember when you were a kid and you dreamt of being in a band? It’s a fantasy most people have had but only an ambitious few have actually pursued. Although we may look back at such optimistic fantasies with cynicism, there is, nonetheless, something nostalgic and captivating in these idealistic dreams. In 2013, Swedish writer and director Lukas Moodysson found a way to transplant our nostalgic longings onto the screen with his film “We Are the Best!” A coming-of-age tale, the film follows three young punks as they try to form a punk rock band in the rehearsal room of their local community center. Along with their quest for recognition, they face the essential adversities of childhood: annoying parents, apathetic crushes and, most significantly, the insatiable struggle to be taken seriously.
Set in Stockholm in the early 1980s, the film centers around Bobo (played by Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (played by Mira Grosin), two 13-year-old punk fans who take their mature obsession with the rebellious subculture to its logical extreme. As neither of them are musically inclined, they ask an introverted classical guitarist, Hedvig (played by Liv LeMoyne), to join their band. Along their path to punk rock stardom, they cut each other’s hair, discuss lyricism and contemplate the existence of God (typical kid stuff).
While the film’s premise may initially seem comical, Moodysson cleverly uses the themes and philosophies of punk rock as a vessel to explore the insecurities and struggles of preadolescence. As the film progresses, the audience gradually learns that punk rock means so much more to our young protagonists than just music; to them, punk rock embodies acceptance and companionship outside the standards of society; it represents a struggle to assert one’s individuality in an otherwise apathetic world; it represents the quest for authenticity amidst the phoniness of pop culture. Moodysson’s film presents an original perspective on punk rock that is as relatable as it is entertaining.
Although all the dialogue in the film is in Swedish, the language barrier never takes away from the characters’ stimulating conversations or cynical lyrics. The realness of Moodysson’s writing is impressive. The dialogue covers all the awkward quirks of preadolescent interactions with such natural ease, it’s easy for the viewer to forget that it’s all scripted. Whether the characters are complaining about their parents or bashing pop music, one cannot help but acknowledge how true to life their interactions seem. With its unfiltered depictions of preadolescence, Moodysson’s script manages to be both honest and sentimental.
For such young actors, Barkhammar, Grosin and LeMoyne all give spectacular performances. They carry their characters with such candidness and openness that the film often gives off a documentarian vibe. It’s strange to watch characters who, despite being so young, comport themselves with enough maturity to render their biological ages almost irrelevant. Perhaps their precociousness is what makes the film so effective. We side with Bobo and Klara throughout the film because we understand their struggles; we know how much it hurts to never be taken seriously, and we understand how painful other people’s judgements can be. In a world that declares “Punk is dead,” Bobo and Klara must fight to keep it alive.
By using punk rock to explore the adversities of childhood, the film “We Are the Best!” presents an original coming-of-age tale of friendship, acceptance and music. At the heart of the film, the audience knows that the music Bobo, Klara and Hedvig produce is not nearly as important as the expressions behind the notes. After watching “We Are the Best!”, perhaps you’ll think differently of your annoying younger sibling.