With a title so cocksure, We Are the Best! couldn't be about anything other than early adolescence, those years of impetuous declarations and unshakable convictions. Swedish director Lukas Moodysson—working from a graphic novel by his wife, Coco—has crafted a wonderfully winning film that follows a trio of teen girls who form a punk band in Stockholm in 1982. Thirteen-year-old best friends Klara (Mira Grosin), a spitfire with a glue-spiked mohawk, and Bobo (Mira Barkhammar), a moody face behind round spectacles, don't get along with the gum-smacking blond girls at school. Their gym class is basically an exercise in fascism. So when they manage to snag a rehearsal room at a community center, they take to the instruments with zeal. Not, however, with talent. That's why they recruit fellow misfit Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), a classical guitarist who's ostracized for being Christian. "We'll influence her away from God," says Bobo. Klara agrees—punk is all about telling truth to power and helping the weak, which also explains why the band's only song is "Hate the Sport," a screed against those who devote themselves to athletics and give no thought to the threat of nuclear meltdown. (Sample lyric: "Children in Africa are dying/ But you're all about balls flying.") These embryonic stirrings of political awareness are amusing, and We Are the Best! is indeed rich with humor. But it's also about that last gasp of childhood, and how it feels to cross into adolescence. At one point, after Bobo has accidentally cut her hand with a knife, the three girls embrace each other with an urgency known only to 13-year-olds. "I don't want to die," sobs Bobo. Considering that puberty is already a matter of life or death, she doesn't sound melodramatic at all.
Critic's Grade: A-
SEE IT: We Are the Best! opens Friday at Fox Tower.