It all starts off very slowly with a middle-class middle-aged woman’s birthday party, and, if you’ve not watched a Lukas Moodysson film since Lilja 4-ever (2002) or even, dear me, its follow-up Ett hål i mitt hjärta (A Hole in My Heart, 2004), then you can spend a good portion of the film’s running time fearing a turn towards the nightmarish worst in this story of a couple of young girls growing up in early-80s Stockholm with a flair for non-conformity and a passion for punk music. There’s a lot of stuff that mid-2000s Moodysson could easily have done with this scenario, but the relief — and the delight — of it all is that it remains affirming of the girls’ decisions and makes for a brisk repudiation of lazy clichés about women in rock. Sure, like many punk musicians, the central two, Bobo and Klara (bespectacled Mira Barkhammar and mohawk-sporting Mira Grosin), start from a place of not knowing how to play, but make up for it in sheer determination — not to mention boredom at their tedious conformist lives and school. They recruit one of their schoolmates, Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), who is actually trained in classical guitar though likewise shunned for her beliefs (in this case, her commitment to Christianity, rather than obnoxious music). This is where things could go all sentimental — you can easily imagine a Hollywood remake with a mellifluously bassy trailer voice hymning these three girls who come from unlikely places to forge a friendship and make music — but it all stays refreshingly free of judgement. My favourite scene is one where some older music tech guys who own a small rehearsal space start mansplaining their instruments to the girls, only to be swiftly rebutted by Hedvig’s playing, which is far superior to theirs. There’s a bit of coming of age thematics to this (there’s a brief dalliance with similar punk boys of around the same age who live out in some far-flung suburb) but mostly it just stays focused on the three young women and their friendship. And it’s delightful.
Director Lukas Moodysson; Writers Coco Moodysson and Lukas Moodysson; Cinematographer Ulf Brantås; Starring Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, Liv LeMoyne; Length 102 minutes.
Seen at Cineworld Shaftesbury Avenue, London, Monday 21 April 2014.