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Border (A Movie Review)

Updated: Sep 27, 2023


BORDER (2018)

Starring Eva Melander, Eero Milonoff, Jörgen Thorsson, Ann Petrén, Sten Ljunggren, Kjell Wilhelmsen, Rakel Wärmländer, Andreas Kundler, Matti Boustedt, Tomas Åhnstrand, Josefin Neldén, Henrik Johansson, Ibrahim Faal, Åsa Janson, Donald Högberg, Krister Kern, Viktor Åkerblom, Robert Enckell and Elisabeth Göransson.

Screenplay by Ali Abbasi and Isabella Eklöf.

Directed by Ali Abbasi.

Distributed by Neon. 110 minutes. Rated R.

Screened at the 2018 Philadelphia Film Festival.

Wow. What to say about Border?

This genre-bending Swedish film by director Ali Abbasi is arriving on the festival circuit with critical acclaim, even winning the Grand Jury prize in Un Certain Regard at Cannes, as well as being Sweden’s official entry for nomination for Best Foreign Film in the Academy Awards.

It is sometimes brilliant. Except when it is not. It has some amazing acting, intriguing storylines and an interesting crime story. To start out, the movie is terrific. A bit odd, yes, but smart, funny and mysterious.

However, as the concept is fleshed out and the storyline becomes more fantastical, frankly the movie keeps getting weirder and weirder. Despite the terrific dialogue and some intriguing plot points, eventually the audience can’t help but want to exasperatedly ask the filmmakers: What the flying fuck???

It’s not just me who felt this way, it seems. Of all the films I’ve caught at the Philly Film Festival so far this year, this was the only one in which I saw several people just get up and walk out at different points during the screening.

Which, conversely, doesn’t necessarily make Border a bad film. It’s just a very, very, very strange film. It’s the kind of movie you either just get or you don’t. From the buzz of the crowd leaving, at least some people seemed to really enjoy it. I could even see the movie getting a cult of passionate fans.

However, for me, I just didn’t get it. I wanted to like it. I even did like it for much of the first half. But as things spun further and further out of whack, the film started to annoy me. By the time it was over, the squandered opportunity had me in a foul mood.

Yes, Border took some serious chances. And no, it was not cookie-cutter. This was a truly unique vision. It’s just a unique vision I have no real interest in ever seeing.

Eva Melander (under a whole lot of makeup and prosthetics) plays Tina, an odd-looking woman who nearly looks neanderthal. She is a loner and very odd, with strained relationships with her dementia-ridden father and her dog-training hippie roommate/boyfriend. But she does have some special skills. She can communicate and relate to wild animals. She is also able to literally smell guilt. If someone is committing a crime or doing something wrong, Tina can pick up on it just by the person’s scent.

Therefore, she goes through life in the Swedish equivalent of customs at the local airport, sniffing out smugglers and miscreants. Her special skills attract the attention of the police, when she captures a passenger who is hiding kiddie porn, the cops ask her to help them track down the ring.

So far so good, right?

But that is pretty much where the film goes off the rails.

Her life changes when she meets an odd man named Vore (Eero Milonoff), who has the same distinct caveman-ish features and shares many of her skills. A friendship with Vore opens Tina’s eyes up to a world she had never imagined. And, honestly, it leads to possibly the most disturbing, primitive and un-sexy sex scene I may have ever seen.

I won’t tell you any more of what happens – partially not to spoil the surprise, but also partially because a whole hell of a lot of it is batshit crazy.

Oddly, though, even in the later sections, when the film swings back to the parts that were working – the investigation, her relationships, her vision of the world she lives in – sometimes Border reminds you of why you had hope for it in the first place. In fact, even in its wildest parts, Border is a smartly made film.

Eventually, though, it just got too off-the-wall and all the goodwill I had for the film bled away. Other viewers may find the movie fascinating, but I just hit a point where I lost all patience for Border. Unlike some other people at the screening I mentioned earlier, though, I didn’t walk out, which is saying something, I suppose.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2018 All rights reserved. Posted: October 21, 2018.


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