I keep talking about 2014 films, and I should diversify what I’m talking about, but with the slim pickings we have this year of great female driven films, it’s hard for me to not gush over the few we have.
We Are the Best! is not only one of my personal favorite films of the year, it’s also – along with my last feature, Obvious Child – easily one of the most realistic portrayals of girls, no matter what age. If you’re looking for the antithesis to Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, this may be it.
The film, directed by Lukas Moodysson, is his adaptation of a graphic novel (written by his wife) that documents moments in three young misfits’ lives growing up in early ‘80s Stockholm. Bobo (Mira Banchammer) and Klara (Mira Groin) are best friends, two punk-spirited rebels who want to start a band and find a purpose. The problem is that neither of them are at all musically inclined. Soon they befriend the quiet girl who sits alone at lunch, Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), and with her classically trained guitar skills the three are able to start their band as well as form a close friendship.
This film is important for many reasons, but namely for how it deals with female characters in their very early teen years. I think it may be understated just how hard young girls have it. They have a lot to deal with: forced upon ideals of what they should look like and who they should be, how many friends they should have, they deal with puberty and all the mess of emotions that come with that, and during all of these external and internal pressures they also have to hear about how awful teenage girls are.
How many of us have grown up hearing that boys are easier? Easier to deal with, easier to get along with, etc. We’ve all heard it. A lot of us begin to even believe it and say things such as “I’m not like other girls,” or “I’m just one of the guys,” or “I’m not a girly girl.” Young girls are told that their gender is inherently worse for reasons perpetuated by a culture that lifts up boys more than girls. We’re told we’re catty, we’re competitive and vain, but if girls are ever these things it’s typically due to the expectations telling us that’s how we’re supposed to behave, and a culture that pits girls against one another.
We Are the Best! is all about showcasing the importance of female friendships, the idea that while dating can be fun, good friends are even better, that identity is something built from the inside out and that yes, sometimes we don’t feel very pretty, and sometimes we get jealous of our more confident friends no matter how much we love them, and sometimes we do silly, stupid things because we’re human.
Bobo is such a fantastic little character and played soulfully by newcomer Banchammer. As I mentioned, being 13 is a tough deal. Her insecurities feel real, and it’s almost overwhelming how much déjà vu is experienced as you watch her study herself in the mirror, poking and prodding, trying to fix something that doesn’t need fixing.
Stand her next to Klara and you understand the irrational insecurities, despite Klara being Bobo’s rock. Klara is outspoken, brazen and seemingly at peace with her identity – admirable considering it takes many much longer – something that Bobo is not. Then there’s Hedvig, the shy center of the group who is just happy to have two wonderful friends. Friendship isn’t always easy and it requires effort, but it should never be a burden.
It’s also nice to see young girls so infatuated with music, because that’s what young people do. They latch onto certain ideas, labels or communities and run with them, hoping that they find themselves within it. Music is an integral part of many teenagers’ lives, I know it was for me, although Bobo and Klara have much better taste than I did (I was more of the emo kid persuasion…). The movie also refreshingly gets how teens talk and interact with each other, and how little things seem big but then are forgotten momentarily. This is most notable in an instance of jealousy over a boy between Klara and Bobo, wherein cheating involves merely hugging a boy goodbye.
We Are the Best! ends with the girls playing a show that doesn’t go well if you base it off the crowd’s reaction, but that goes perfectly if you judge it by the girls themselves. They’re making their own mini-stance saying, “Here we are, this is what we’re about, and damn anything else.” They like each other and that’s all that matters. It’s such a shockingly subtle but empowering film, and it’s one that simply gets what being a teenage girl means, with its difficulties and triumphs, no matter how big or small. Sometimes girls want to be the punk rockers, the rebels, or the badasses – so let them.
If you haven’t yet seen the film, I urge you to because it’s now on Netflix. Go!