It's taken an entire decade, but with We Are the Best! it appears that Lukas Moodysson has finally come to terms with the fact that it's okay for people to like his films. While everything he's done post-Lilya-4-ever may have been a 10-year exercise in lowering (or obliterating) expectations, here he is very much back in the territory of his beloved debut, Fucking Åmål (Show Me Love).
The themes (straight from his wife's comic book, which was the source of this film) are very much there; dissatisfied young girls, alienated at school, finding the courage to be - and comfort in being - different, rock music, crap parties, misplaced parents: in short, youth. He has also, predictably, got the very most out of his inexperienced cast. They are three girls who start a punk band in revenge for people being mean to them.
This is not Show Me Love though, it's set-up in a far more comedic way, it's dripping with far greater period and political awareness, and despite the specific setting it feels strangely timeless. Maybe because a deal of the comments and behaviour (like being told punk's dead, or making ridicuous snacks) echo Fucking Åmål, which is set 15 years later. And it shows just how "successful" Moodysson has been at letting his audience know that he can make things awful, average or off-putting that when he returns to the world and feel of his debut it doesn't matter that, while fun, it's not in the same league because you're just so glad he's gone there again.
There isn't much of an emotional centre here in terms of relationships, but Moodysson very much captures the spirit of his subject. The punk ending is quietly perfect (and very Joy Division) as it resonates with the ethos and purpose of the girls, and remains completely believable and satisfactory. It's entertaining, it's not a masterpiece, but at least he's at peace with this being the former as long as you are with it being the latter. And that's fair enough.