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Border (Gräns) – Review

Adapted from a short story by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Who also brought us Let The Right One In. Director Ali Abbasi takes Lindqvist’s story into a feature film format. While also creating one the most unique, surprising and utterly enthralling piece of fantasy/drama seen since The Shape of Water. One that not only takes us the edges of reality but also offers a dissection of discrimination and social oppression.

Tina (Eva Melander) lives a quiet life of rural isolation. Her only real human contact coming through her job as a border guard at the local ferry port. And her difficult and oppressive relationship with her partner Roland. A dog-loving man who merely uses Tina as a port of convenience for his lifestyle.

However, Tina is also unique, with facial features that do not match others. Dovetailing with a sense of smell that can detect human emotion, fear and guilt. A skill that proves highly useful in a border enforcement role. And one that equally does not go unnoticed by her colleagues. Her difference is the result of a chromosomal flaw, or at least that is what she has been told since childhood. However, on meeting a stranger who shares the same ‘chromosomal’ difference. Tina begins to question her identity and roots. As the mysterious Vore (Eero Milonoff) slowly becomes an integral part of her life.

What makes Border unique and compelling is its use of fantasy alongside 21st Century social themes of equality and difference. Resulting in a film that is unafraid to explore issues of identity, difference and segregation. While equally embracing its fantasy roots with both vision and creativity. This, in turn, creates a fascinating journey of self-discovery that is both riveting and unique in construct. Playing with broader issues that would normally be constrained to the coming of age genre. With identity, gender, repression and release all central to Tina and Vore’s personal journey.

Equally, characters are beautifully portrayed with both complexity and sensitivity. While direction allows time for the audience to develop empathy and understanding of their needs. Consequently delivering a film that is proud of its fantastical roots while also embracing modern themes and ideas. With love and belonging sitting alongside a deep understanding of the barriers created through difference and division.

Director: Ali Abbasi

Cast: Eva MelanderEero MilonoffJörgen Thorsson