First, let me talk about how I was not so entertained during the first viewing of Swedish film “We Are the Best!”. While it was interesting to hear a number of Swedish punk rock songs on the soundtrack, they did not leave much impression on me, and the movie only tunes its instruments from time to time as following its leisurely plot with no clear direction. There are indeed several music performance scenes in the film, but they feel rather plain for understandable reasons, and even its comic finale does not have much to show in musical aspects.
However, the movie is not entirely without charm, and I must admit that it works to some degrees as a likable coming-of-age drama which does not feel obliged to follow generic conventions. Mainly driven by characters rather than plot, the movie provides little nice moments between its lovable main characters, and it usually depends more on their engaging personalities than their music. Yes, they still have a long, long way to go, but we cannot help but be amused by their naive enthusiasm, and we come to hope for the best no matter what will happen to their music career in the future.
When the movie introduces us to Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin), two Swedish girls going through their adolescence years during the 1980s, the first thing we notice is their unusual appearance. With their short hair style and boyish attire, they sometimes look like boys (yes, I must confess that I was confused once or twice as watching them), and their unorthodox appearance certainly makes them an oddball duo at their school while drawing attentions all the time. While Bobo is more introverted and hesitant, Klara is more direct and brash along with her Mohawk-styled haircut, and she feels no qualm about expressing her strong political opinions in front of others.
During one of their usual evenings at a local youth center, Bobo and Klara happen to come across a local rock band. Annoyed by the noises from the band’s practice, they make an impulsive decision of organizing a band of their own, but our girls really have no idea on what to do next. Although they have been devoted fans of punk rock music, they know *very* little about how to play guitar or drum or other instruments, and it is not easy for us to keep our face straight as they clumsily try to play their, uh, music using the instruments generously provided the youth center. They later write their song, titled “Hate the Sports” (both of them have no interest in physical education class, by the way), and I must say that it sounds as clunky as you can expect from your average punk rock musician wannabes.
But then there comes an opportunity which may help them. During the annual fall concert at their school, Bobo and Klara happen to see a nice guitar performance by an older student named Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), and they decide to recruit her even though this shy girl from a rather strict Christian household is not very familiar with punk rock music. This surely looks a mismatch, but it turns out that Hedvig is willing to join them as another loner at the school, and she helps her new friends through her few useful advices on how to perform properly.
While aimless at times in its loose narrative, the screenplay by the director Lukas Moodysoon, which is based on his wife Coco Moodysson’s graphic novel “Never Goodnight”, does not try to push the characters into familiar clichés at least. Bobo and Klara are not dramatically improved in their musical ability, but they perform their song a little better than before thanks to Hedvig, and the girls begin to look more like a band as they spend more time with each other. When they come to meet the boys of some other band later in the story, it is naturally followed by a small conflict between the girls, but how it is eventually resolved is less melodramatic than expected because, after all, girls are more sensible than boys.
The movie also imbues its supporting characters with some nice human touches. Klara and Bobo feel suffocated inside their homes, but that is a typical feeing we all once had when we were young, and their parents are actually nice persons who sometimes annoy their daughters with a little too much care. While she is mostly absorbed in finding a new man in her life, Bobo’s mother makes it sure that Bobo spends more time with her ex-husband during their family dinner, although that is the last thing Bobo wants at that point. In case of Klara’s family, things are never boring in their boisterous household; Klara’s encouraging father tries to give a performance with his clarinet in front of the girls during one funny scene, and Klara’s older brother is supportive of his sister’s punk style as a rock music enthusiast, though she is currently pissed about the fact that he is more interested in Joy Division now.
Another good moment comes from when Bobo and Klara have to talk with Hedvig’s conservative mother over a certain serious matter. While she may report to the police for what happened to her dear daughter, Hedvig’s mother turns out to be a lot more tolerant and understanding than expected, and she gently and clearly makes her points to Bobo and Klara; she is not mad about them, and she does not disapprove of her daughter’s new interest, but she thinks they did a wrong thing to Hedvig.
“We Are the Best!” feels languid at some points, and I was occasionally impatient even during my second viewing. Anyway, I appreciated its unconventional elements while enjoying the amiable performances of its three young actresses who have a good natural chemistry between them, and I think you may have more fun with this little pleasant film if you keep in mind that this is not a conventional music movie. When viewed objectively, they are not the best, but who can deny their spirited enthusiasm?