Some girls just don't care about being pretty.
That's a truth that none of the kids around 13-year-old best friends Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) can comprehend. The other girls at school make fun of nerdy Bobo's self-administered boys' cut and pushy Klara's mohawk, while the older boys in their after-school program taunt them for, well, essentially being girls.
Most cuttingly, the Bobo and Klara are told, over and over again by everyone in ABBA-crazed 1982 Stockholm, that punk is dead.
But Bobo and Klara refuse to let punk go. They can't, really; they need music to air out their grievances against the world -- the benign parents who just don't understand; the mindless activities at school, especially sports; and the general state of being thirteen and feeling like you're growing into a world that's all wrong. They start a punk band to piss off their bullies (by signing up for the band room right under their noses), then recruit someone who actually knows how to play an instrument: the dimpled, Christian loner Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), who's just as wary of her rough-housing new friends as they are of her childish innocence.
Though the girls' bursts of creativity are this naturalistic, unsentimental film's raison d'etre, director Lukas Moodysson (adapting his wife Coco's graphic novel) also shows how their impulses can turn destructive, as in a fun scene that gradually becomes uncomfortable when Klara insists on cutting Hedvig's angelic blond hair to conform to something more "punk." Later, the typical intra-band arguments, like who gets to play what instrument and for how long, spill over into a conflict about boys between Klara and Bobo, who's keenly aware that guys are much more into her BFF.
But most of We Are the Best!, as the title suggests, is about pure, unadulterated girl power. Sure, Bobo, Klara, and Hedvig only ever manage to write and perform one song, but the process of learning how to channel their frustrations into music and figuring out how to prove to the world that punk isn't dead as long as there's still battles to be fought makes for a hilarious, honest, and unfortunately still rare portrait of girlhood in all its resourceful and inventive glory. In a new age that proclaims disorder and revolt belong to the past, the girls become rebels simply because they're trying to be themselves.
Buoyed by wonderful character details, their complicated relationships, and the winsome esprit de corps between the three friends, this joyfully rambunctious Swedish import is the best movie I've seen about girls -- scratch that, the best movie I've seen period -- so far this year.