Much like its title implies, We Are the Best! is a lively, feel-good lark from Swedish director Lukas Moodysson, who returns to the upbeat vibe of his early films ( Show Me Love, Together) with an altogether new kind of exuberance (the exclamation mark in the title is well-earned). Set in 1982 Stockholm, the film centers on two misfit best friends, Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin), who are mocked by their schoolmates for their punk hairstyles and androgynous looks (“Just go die somewhere!” one mean girl tells them).
As a form of rebellion, the two pals decide to form a rock band, even though they know nothing about music (“What are chords?”). For help, they recruit the shy Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), a classically trained guitarist and strict Christian whose conservative values initially make for an uncomfortable fit.
The film is based on the graphic novel by his wife Coco, and Moodysson uses it to explore the complicated bonds that form between 13-year-old girls and how they are willing to swear allegiance to each other forever, until puberty starts getting in the way. The movie has an infectious sense of humor — one of the band’s songs ridicules the attention boys pay to sports (“Children in Africa are dying, but all you care about is balls flying!”) — and the film has a feel for the way young adolescents see the world, savoring any victory, no matter how trivial, as a triumph. In a few years, these three will have probably gone their separate ways. But for right now, together, they really are the best.