There has never been a movie that has so impeccably captured the feeling of being 13 years old. Frame by frame, Lukas Moodyson immerses his audience in the ocean of naïve rage that pulsates in the hearts of three pubescent punks. Playfully commenting on concepts such as religion and sexism, We Are the Best never loses sight of telling a simple, engaging story.
Making art about adolescence (and especially preadolescence) is an exceptionally difficult conquest to achieve. Any problem experienced by a person under 30 seems inconsequential and unsubstantial. This is why so many movies about high school students seem idiotic. It is even more difficult to make a movie about kids who are not living under extraordinary circumstances (like Anne Frank, Helen Keller or Juno). It is downright mind-blowing that I, a 28-year-old male American who's never even been out of the country, can deeply relate to some 13-year-old Swedish girls. Through the power of modern cinema, people who are worlds away can feel like close friends. This is an important work socially, politically and urgently.
The reason everybody can identify with this story is the genius of Lukas Moodysson. The celebrated indie director is able to dive into the mind and body of youth and reinterpret it into a palatable flick for mass audiences. Not since Mark Twin have we seen such pitch-perfect portraits of children navigating their way through a culturally poignant backdrop. The truly special thing about the film is there is nothing particularly special about it at all. It is about plain, ordinary, undistinguished girls... Daughters of mediocrity. Yet through the galvanizing filter of punk rock they find themselves to be phenomenal, marvelous, the best. And how do you analyze something that is just beat-for-beat life? How do you review something that you just live through? How do you critique the truth?
We Are the Best is a quiet movie about loud noise. The ideas are being screamed at the top the characters' lungs, yet they are impossibly understated. Bear with me. The Pixies are one of the most influential rock and roll bands of all time. Anybody who would argue differently doesn't know what the fuck they're talking about. It can be asserted that the success of an artist is based on their formula. For example, Stairway to Heaven has been said to be such a mammoth success because of its structural, stairway-like build, which is rare form for a pop song. The thing music and movies need to be compelling is tension. Drama. Friction. You can feel it in your gut when you hear it or see it. The tension within in the structure of a Pixies' song is an insanely basic formula. Loud-Quiet-Loud. That's it. This structural principle was applied to a song by a band you may have heard of called Nirvana. That song was Smells Like Teen Spirit, and it is the most culturally relevant single of my generation. It dethroned the king of pop and made teenagers believe in music again. Lukas Moodysson is to film what the Pixies are to music. While he may never be accepted or known in the mainstream media, he has the influence to inform an entire generation of future filmmakers.
More than anything, We Are the Best is about three friends standing up for what they believe in no matter how disgraceful or stupid or bad the world tells them they are. It's about kids on the brink of becoming women in a tangled and uncertain age. But really, it's about finding something deep within yourself to express, whether people want to hear it or not. It's about art. Relentless, reckless, beautiful art.