Starring: Eva Melander, Eero Milonoff, Jörgen Thorsson
Director: Ali Abbasi
Running Time: 110 mins
Border (Gräns) is a Swedish film about a woman with the ability to smell people’s emotions who develops a strange attraction to a man who passes by as she works as a border agent, while her participation in a police investigation begins to cause her to question who she really is.
This is undoubtedly one of the strangest films I’ve ever seen, and although I cannot fault Border for being an original and striking piece, I can’t say that it’s the most enthralling film ever made either. Despite a unique and quirky premise, the film doesn’t quite have the same depth in its originality, while some of its more disturbingly weird moments come across as a little too unpleasant, failing to wrap you up in the sense of bizarre wonder that could have made it a little more special.
So, the story revolves around a woman who works as a border agent, and her life as she experiences differences with those around her, as well as developing a bond with a more similar man. With a lot of prosthetic make-up, Eva Melander and Eero Milonoff are transformed into rather brutish-looking people, but through their strange, almost animal-like behaviour throughout, they begin to feel closer and closer.
That’s the part of the movie that works well – the sheer bewilderment you feel at watching two people act in the least human manner possible, and the intrigue that that breeds as you attempt to figure what on earth they really are, and why they act in such a strange way. It’s a unique idea that the film pushes forward with confidence and persistence, and it definitely makes Border a striking watch throughout.
However, while it’s an interesting and equally confusing film from the start, Border hits a little bit of a roadblock about halfway through, as it runs out of surprises to keep you enticed and weirded-out to the same extent as its opening act.
Moving at an incredibly slow pace, the film resists giving you too much information about the true nature of these two characters, but after a while, it just becomes a point of frustration rather than intrigue. And then when you do get somewhat more of a reveal, the film is then completely out of ideas and mystery for the remainder of its runtime, failing to engross you with any sense of wonderment in a final act that’s a lot more unpleasant than it is mystical.
And that’s my other big problem with Border: it’s just a bit too weird. At its heart, the film tells a story about accepting and understanding who you truly are, but that central theme really pales in comparison to the stranger surface of the movie. However, in an attempt to keep surprising and intriguing you, the film goes all out with some of the most bizarre elements of drama and even fantasy, to the point where it actually becomes a little disturbing, and extremely uncomfortable.
Overall, then, I found Border an intriguing and immensely bewildering film. Starting strongly with a vague yet original premise, the film does unfortunately fall apart due to a lack of real depth, a painfully slow pace, and a disturbing desire to show the weirdest things it can possibly think of. It’s a unique film that did grab me, but it’s definitely not for everyone, which is why I’m giving it a 7.2.