In his 16-year career Swedish cult director Lukas Moodysson has ranged from satires on hippies (Together) to gruelling stories about sex-trafficked teens (Lilya 4-Ever). There’s a quarrelsome tension in his work – he always wants to show a mixture of the glint-eyed and the brittle, the morbid and the tragic, but he is also open to the funny, more gentle sides of people.
The essentially soft-hearted We Are the Best!, based on a graphic novel written by his wife, follows Bobo, Klara and Hedvig, 12- and 13-year-old girls forming a punk band in Stockholm in 1982 and trying to cope with boys who never call and parents who think it’s funny to give a block of cheese as a Christmas present because “it’s an example of culture”. The enabling spirit of punk burns within these girls. “Drums have no chords right?” whoops Bobo when first faced with the instrument. There’s a hilarious moment when Klara’s father wants to join the band, offering to play clarinet. He smirks, he’s joking – but only just.
Moodysson is subtle enough for these parents to not be stiffs. As a director he has always been fantastic with subsidiary characters – he doesn’t hollow them out as people and permits everyone the directness and spontaneity familiar in all his films. But you sense a deep involvement behind the camera now – a joy. At 45, Moodysson is working completely without pessimism or sentimentality.