As many have suspected, punk rock is a gateway drug to anti-authoritarianism, nihilism and an utter disregard for propriety, all of which are celebrated quite delightfully in "We Are the Best!," a coming-of-age (but not quite) comedy by director Lukas Moodysson, who has made a habit of depicting the exquisite anguish of adolescence with equal parts respect and hilarity (notably 1998's "Show Me Love," the original title of which was an unprintable but eloquent obscenity).

With "We Are the Best!," he has at his disposal three spectacular young actresses and three memorable characters on the cusp of adulthood and anarchy. The take-charge Klara (Mira Grosin) wears a haphazard Mohawk and decides against all logic to start a punk band (punk is dead, they have no instruments, their talent is indiscernible). Her much more reticent BFF, Bobo (Mira Barkhammar), wants to play bass but is relegated by the bossy Karla to drums. Finally, there's Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), a willowy blond Christian and classical guitar prodigy whose music and worldview are seriously warped by her new bandmates, "musicians" for whom the concepts of chords, harmony and even tuning are absolute revelations.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The music is hardly Moodysson's point. He's out to capture -- and does -- the reckless energy and potential of youth, especially youth that has looked at the face of respectability and seen no one looking back. Some of the funniest bits in the film involve the iconoclastic Klara embarrassing her pals with her crackpot schemes, like begging in the subway for an electric guitar ("My dad is dead, my mother drinks and I haven't been fed for weeks"). But it's the naturalism of Moodysson's direction, and the supernatural charm of his actresses, that are the keys to "We Are the Best!" It's a title that makes quite a statement. Few viewers will be inclined to argue.

PLOT In 1982 Stockholm, three underdog adolescents form a punk band, even though punk is dead and two of them can't play at all. Unrated.

CAST Mira Grosin, Mira Barkhammar, Liv LeMoyne


advertisement | advertise on newsday

BOTTOM LINE Spontaneously, infectiously, endearingly fun. (In Swedish with English subtitles)