Joshua Reviews Lukas Moodysson’s We Are The Best! [Theatrical Review]


Few things are more beautiful than a husband and wife creative team working at the absolute height of their powers. Take beloved cult world filmmaker Lukas Moodysson and his wife Coco, for example. Moodysson has seemingly taken the world by storm with a handful of breathtaking motion pictures, and now he’s taking to adapting one of his wife’s great graphic novels for what may very well be the filmmaker’s best and most enjoyable piece of coming of age cinema to date.

As mentioned above, his latest film, emphatically entitled We Are The Best!, is taken from his wife’s graphic novel, and tells the story of three young punks growing up in Stockholm during the 1980s. The picture introduces us to the adorable and breathlessly thoughtful Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and her right hand girl, the mohawk-wearing enfant terrible Klara (Mira Grosin) as they try their absolute best to not so much as fit in but instead find a way to make their voice heard. And being the fans of punk rock as they are, they, despite knowing nothing of actual instrumentation, take to a local band room with the intent to start an all girl punk outfit. In comes Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), a young prodigy that plays the same song at each year’s talent show, but has the musical skill of any great guitar player. Quite the opposite of the young women, Hedvig is a soft spoken woman of faith, which doesn’t initially sit well with her two new best friends, but they soon see that appearances are nothing more than superficial as they become as thick as thieves in the matter of days. One of the year’s best and most life-affirming pictures to date, this is not only Moodysson at his most effervescent, but it’s one of the most potently and economically crafted meditations on coming of age in a world where differences are seen as negatives instead of the positives they truly are.

Moodysson is the film’s biggest star, but while the world already knows him to be the great and entirely singular cinematic voice he truly is, it is his three leading ladies that steal the show here. Grosin and Barkhammar are absolute revelations here, particularly the latter who is one of the most entrancing on screen performers we’ve seen yet this year. Beautifully and intimately painted, Barkhammar’s Bobo is a brazenly universal character, the depths of which are bewilderingly relatable no matter what gender you identify as. Together with Grosin’s Klara, these two have fantastic chemistry, and when they come in conflict it is not only emotionally resonant but also completely and utterly believable. There’s a particular moment that nearly closes out the film that would, in any other movie, be the spark of the film’s main dramatic movement, but instead is seen as nothing more than just a spat between two best friends both trying to find a way to have their presence known in this world. It’s one of the most human and humane moments in cinema this year, and will not go unnoticed by those who give the film a shot. Toss in LeMoyne’s Hedvig, a performance that is understated but her willingness and want to fit in with this group proves it to be one of the most thematically rich in the entire picture, and you have a film that is as potent a character study as you’ll find.

It just so happens that the director here is one of the world’s most underrated and under-discussed.

Moodysson, best known for films like Mammoth and the film that sort of launched his career, at least here stateside, Together, is at the top of his game here. A beautifully crafted, ground level character study, We Are The Best is as kinetic as it is thoughtful, warm as it is thought provoking, showing that few directors get real human narratives quite like Moodysson. Also the write of the picture, the film has a great handle with balancing tones and moods, at one moment being decidedly dramatic and the next moment you find the three main leads dancing in what is likely the best scene you will come across in cinema this very year. Moodysson’s camera is enchanting and ultimately enchanted by the world these three live in, and has the tender sense of empathy that often goes unnoticed in these types of pictures. As lively and vital as its three main punks, Moodysson’s filmmaking is sweet and lavish, while never taking away from the raw energy that is housed within this picture.

Despite taking a critical hit with his last handful of pictures, the beloved Lukas Moodysson is back and better than ever with this tender look at adolescence. One of the best films of 2014 so far, this is as fun and enjoyable an experience as any major blockbuster could ever hope to give you. Oh, and there are actual characters here too. Well worth skipping the megaplex for, when this crops up at the arthouse in your neck of the woods.

Joshua Brunsting

Josh is a critic, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, a wrestling nerd, a hip-hop head, a father, a cinephile and a man looking to make his stamp on the world, one word at a time.