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Friday, May 30, 2014


Liv LeMoyne, Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin in WE ARE THE BEST! a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
2014, 102 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

There have been numerous films about rock bands, but never has a rock movie been made like We Are the Best!, Lukas Moodysson's new film based on a graphic novel by his wife, Coco, about three seventh and eighth-graders, Bobo, Klara, and Hedvig, who form a punk rock band in Stockholm in 1982.  While We Are the Best! is a small-scale production, it never lacks for heart and Moodysson's direction and the three leads' performances are so strong that they make watching We Are the Best! one of the most enjoyable moviegoing experiences of the first half of 2014

In lesser hands, We Are the Best! would have been precious and the three teens at its center would've been precocious brats who think and act like they're adults.  However, in Moodysson's hands, the three characters act like the kids they are in all of their awkwardness, immaturity, and clear-eyed vision.  Bobo, Klara, and Hedvig may take themselves and their band seriously, but at their core, they're kids who make mistakes and frequently look ridiculous (Moodysson never mocks his characters, though, which is one of his greatest strengths).

Over the past few decades, there have been a number of Swedish films that have explored the experience of adolescence through the eyes of the adolescents.  Bergman's Fanny and Alexander, Lasse Hallström's My Life as a Dog, and Tomas Alfredson's Let the Right One In are all exemplary examples of the aforementioned kinds of films.  What distinguishes the approaches of Bergman, Hallström, Alfredson, and Moodysson from other directors is their gentleness and honesty.  American films about adolescence or the early teenage years are usually either comedies aimed towards kids that rely on crude humor for laughs or teen weepers.  The Swedish directors mentioned above use little to no manipulation and derive laughter from honesty (Moodysson masters this in We Are the Best!).

Mira Barkhammer, Mira Groslin, and Liv LeMoyne are Bobo, Klara, and Hedvig, respectively.  Their performances strengthen each other and are charismatic, sympathetic, and frequently hilarious.  They are the center of the film, as the supporting cast, while important, is limited.  All of the dramatic heft is placed on Barkhammer, Groslin, and LeMoyne's shoulders and they anchor their respective performances with grace.

Overall, We Are the Best! is a wonderful evocation of the 1980s, an honest look at adolescence, and a masterclass in direction.  I can think of few who wouldn't like We Are the Best!.  It is an excellent piece of filmmaking that's designed to please, and I would see it again without hesitation.


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