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WE ARE THE BEST Punk’s Not Dead…

We Are The Best
We Are The Best

Directed by Lukas Moodysson

Starring Mira Barkhammar. Mira Grosin, Liv LeMoyne

 

Swedish director Lukas Moodysson goes back to the ’80s in this coming of age tale. Based on his wife’s graphic novel (Never Goodnight by Coco Moodysson) We Are The Best shows a trio of teen girls holding onto the vestiges of punk at the dawn of the era of new Wave and yuppies.

Growing up is never easy, especially for Bobo and Klara. It’s 1982 in Stockholm and both teen girls are fans of punk, even though it is apparently dead. Ostracised and misunderstood by classmates and teachers alike, the pair decide to form a punk band. Just one problem: neither can play a note. When the deeply religious and musically talented Hedvig crosses their path they see a solution to their problems. If only they can get her to become a punk.

More of a slice of life than a coherent narrative, We Are The Best meanders as it tells its basic tale. What it does show is the life and friendship of three girls and how music is an important part of their transition into adulthood. There are the bones of a tale here, but it gets so caught up in the day to day lives of the girls that it often gets lost. Still it presents Moodysson the opportunity to play around with some of the expectations of the genre to good effect. It’s just that the film lacks focus in this regard and tends to wander, causing the pace to drag at times.

Yet it is very hard to condemn something about punk for being unfocused, anarchic and messy – that’s the very ethos of old school punk. Instead We Are The Best channels that ethos to give the film an energy and vibrancy, granting moments of joy, insight or nostalgia.

It is nostalgia that this film needs to rely on. For the audience to make a genuine connection to the characters there really needs to be some connection to the music and the alternative culture. Its brashness and energy melds with the characters, giving this teenage drama some much needed life. The girls and the punk ethos are closely tied, as in their search for identity they have branded themselves to this tribe. They expound rebellion without having any grounding in politics or pure dedication to cause (a few buzz words about social justice is enough to scam them some free fries from a fast food counter). They are enthusiastic and confident about their band, despite never playing an instrument before. They are at that crossroads when they are little balls of hormones, full of passion and intensity as they seek to form their own identity in the world, but still with the wants and impatience of children. All tied together with school, friends, family, body image and blossoming sexuality.

A film for all of us that have growled along to a Dead Kennedys song, or had this band as their housemates.

 

DAVID O’CONNELL

 

We Are The Best screens at Somerville from Monday, December 29, until Sunday, January 4, and ECU Joondalup Pines from Tuesday, January 6, until Sunday, January 11, as part of Lotterywest Festival films. Go to perthfestival.com.au for more information.

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