Squat and stocky, with her heavy brow and practically Neanderthal features, Swedish customs officer Tina (Eva Melander) may be a figure of fun to some of the travelers passing through the border ferry terminal where she’s stationed. But her unexplained supernatural ability to sniff out contraband, to quite literally sniff out sin and guilt itself, means that the teenager smuggling booze across the border and the businessman with a smart phone full of child pornography both soon find themselves laughing on the other side of their faces.

Solitary and stuck in an essentially platonic relationship with a freeloading stoner dog breeder (Sten Ljunggren), Tina’s lonely existence changes, evolves when she meets Vore (Eero Milonoff), a confident, if off-kilter, individual who seems to share the same genetic abnormalities as Tina, the first person she’s ever met who looks like her, who shares her love of nature, whose smell fascinates and confounds her. Slowly, Tina is drawn to the mysterious Vore who awakens something deeply primal in her, awakens her true nature. But as they grow closer, can Tina really trust the enigmatic Vore…?

By necessity this is going to be a short review. Based on a short story by Let The Right One In author John Ajvide Lindqvist (who also took a first pass at the screenplay), there’s virtually nothing of substance one can say about director Ali Abbasi’s Border that won’t act as a spoiler. Buried beneath mountains of prosthetics and visionary make-up, Melander and Milonoff are both unrecognisable and wonderful as the two outcasts finding comfort, love and acceptance in each other and Melander in particular is a revelation. 

Drawing on Scandinavian folklore, Abbasi has created a very real feeling adult fairytale, the Border being explored not just the between nations but one that exists between myth and reality, between gender and identity, beauty and ugliness, the fantastic and the mundane. Between acceptance and marginalisation. Border explores what exactly it means to be human, explores how we treat the other, the alien, living amongst us.

While it’s about half an hour too long and could do with jettisoning the lurid and perfunctory child pornography/changelings sub-plot that feels sensationalist and unearned, leaving a bad taste in the mouth, there’s real power to Border, Abbasi’s film forging its own understated world, its characters existing somewhere on the fringes, on the borders of our own.

At once muted and affecting, Border is a smart, fun slice of genre filmmaking. See it if for no other reason than it features the freakiest and most queasily romantic sex scene you’ll see all year.

Movie Review: Border
3.0Overall Score
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