We Are the Best!

Early in his career, Swedish writer-director Lukas Moodysson was hailed as the next Ingmar Bergman, but also likened to John Hughes. That did not compute for a while, but now with We Are the Best! Moodysson somehow clarifies the universal sweetness of teen angst by filtering it through a Nordic winter light. This dry coming-of-age comedy re-creates Stockholm of the early ’80s, where three girls (Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, Liv LeMoyne) bumble their way into becoming a punk band. (Sample lyric, composed as furtive gym-class protest: “The world is a morgue, but you’re watching Bjorn Borg!”) Adapting a graphic-novel memoir by his wife, Coco, Moodysson proceeds with palpable compassion but also some perspective on the girls’ shambling defiance of their status quo, which of course includes many declarations that punk is dead. Their rebellious antics are adorable but never too cutesy, always grounded in emotional truth and recorded in a nimbly kinetic shooting style. It’s all the more endearing for being somewhat aimless, as accuracy requires, and Moodysson’s gift for lifelike misfit ennui here seems exalted by specific inspiration. This is a small-seeming movie, but one which might have big importance to a lot of young people, or to old people who were young once.