Bobo and Klara, two 13-year-old Swedish girls, are having a debate by telephone. And the moment Klara (Mira Grosin) holds her phone through the cracked door — capturing a loud, pointless shouting match between her mother and father — “We Are the Best!” sets itself apart from other coming-of-age pictures.
“See?” she says. “MY parents are worse!”
“We Are the Best!” is a musical period piece, a winning tale of girls figuring out who they are, what their tribe will be and who they can depend on as they punch through whatever glass ceiling Sweden has to offer their gender in 1982.
The first ceiling? It’s the age of ABBA, but Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara are punks.
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“Punk’s dead,” their derisive classmates might say, at their choppy hairstyles and tastes in music. “Don’t you know that?”
“We have a band,” Klara lies. And so they do, borrowing instruments and demanding rehearsal time at the local community center. Klara will play bass, write a song and sing it. Bobo takes up the drums.
They hate gym? “Hate the Sport” becomes their first punk anthem. They need a guitarist? Why not court the conservative, shy “Kumbaya”-playing Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne)?
“We Are the Best!” is a scruffy, anarchic picture that gets better as it stumbles along. There’s just a hint of formula here — the “band” will make its debut at a Christmas concert. Will they humiliate themselves, or is that just a hint of improvement we detect?
The point, for those who remember that era in America and Britain, is that “It’s punk. Who’ll know the difference?” It’s the brash attitude, the defiant haircuts and the rage that count. Even when you’re 13 and the best thing you have to rebel against is gym class.