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Movie Review: "Border”

Photo credit:
"Border"

No, Ali Abbasi’s “Border” isn’t about the current U.S. government’s fixation on  “hordes” of aliens allegedly storming the U.S. southern border.

It is Finland’s entry for the Best Foreign Film Oscar this year – an odd little film about big issues like humanity, the Other, and what defines each.

Based on a short story by John Ajvide Lindqvist (novelist and screenwriter of the 2008 vampire film “Let the Right One In”), “Border” is a different animal altogether.

Tina (Swedish stage and screen veteran Eva Melander) is a deformed border guard at a ferry port in an unnamed Swedish city. Her face – with features broadened and blunted – shows the effects of genetic mutation.

But she has an unusual gift: she can smell emotions like shame, guilt, rage and fear. Tina spends her days sniffing out smugglers and other scofflaws, but at night she goes home to her forest cabin and indifferent live-in boyfriend Roland (Jörgen Thorsson), who trains and shows dogs. Tina and Roland live as sexless roommates, sharing a seemingly airless physical space (it’s difficult to call it a relationship). She also has an ailing father (Sten Ljunggren), with whom she has a troubled history.

Tina is most at home in nature, where she skinny-dips in the lake and befriends forest animals like reindeer and foxes. Her life is not unhappy, exactly, but it is lonely. She has resigned herself to being an outsider.

One day she goes to the local hostel, where she meets Vore (Finnish actor Eero Milonoff), also strange-looking and quiet, but something about him makes her want to know him better. He even makes her willing to taste the wild grubs he is collecting.

Vore will move into Tina’s guest house, where the film really gets strange and where she will learn some unsettling facts about her heritage.

Just as you’re beginning to think you understand what’s up, Abbasi tosses in a twist on Norse folklore which may not advance the plot but will likely make you giggle.

Beautifully filmed (especially the forest sections) and well acted, “Border” almost made me wish I had that kind of connection to the wild places. Kudos to cinematographer Nadim Carlsen for that.

Christian Holm gets a nod too, for his eerie sound editing.

Genres: Fantasy/Romance/Thriller

Rated R for some sexual content, graphic nudity, a bloody violent image, and language

Studio: Neon

Runtime: 110 minutes

Our rating: 4

Directed by: Ali Abbasi

Cast: Eva Melander, Eero Milonoff, Jörgen Thorsson

"Border" begins playing at the Landmark Hillcrest on Friday, November 16, 2018. click HERE for information and showtimes.