Thursday 18 October 2018

BORDER (GRANS) - London Film Festival review

From John Ajvide Lindqvist, the writer of Let The Right One In, Border stars Eva Melander as Tina, a border control officer with an uncanny ability to sniff out wrongdoers. She lives a boring, mundane life until the arrival of Vore (Eero Milonoff), a mysterious figure who she shares a lot in common with promises to change what Tina thought about who she really was.

What's immediately obvious in Border is that Tina is no regular woman. With a heavy brow and caricatured features that she shares with no one else in her life (until Vore appears), she has grown up considering herself deformed, and unable to find someone who finds her attractive. Instead, she lives with a man who stays at her home all day, breeds muscular dogs and may be taking advantage of Tina's generosity. Things change for Tina when she encounters Vore passing through her security control. Immediately she is fascinated by him and can smell he is unlike anyone she has met before, but strangely familiar. Through their interactions and burgeoning relationship Tina finds out many secrets about herself that explain why she has never felt comfortable in the world she lives in.

Border swings from incredibly dark to incredibly weird, tackling some familiar themes of gender identity and physicality that Lindqvist has explored before in his writing. This is something of a mixed success in the characters of Tina and Vore, as your ability to enjoy this story depends on your suspension of disbelief that they could realistically exist in our world. Their characterisation and performances are extremely good, but then also the prosthetic work on both leads is far from subtle and wouldn't look amiss in a Vic & Bob sketch on a BBC budget. The filmmakers have clearly gone to some lengths to make Tina and Vore appear otherworldly, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that the make-up was occasionally a distraction.

Luckily the performances are very strong, with Melander giving Tina a real sense of growth as a person as she uncovers more about herself. Likewise Milonoff's Vore, who is a unique thrill to watch on screen, even if he looks like a disgusting creature, part ape man, part Aphex Twin, has complete disdain for the human race and may or may not be connected to the dark, dangerous world of child pornography Tina gets drawn into through her job. It's a disturbing subplot that you wouldn't expect to be covered in a typical love story, but then this ain't no When Harry Met Sally.

An off kilter romance with a nose for the bizarre side of life and the tenderest, weirdest sex scene you could imagine, Border goes to the edge and then bounds over it. Some of the subplot themes may on the surface be unpalatable, but at its core this film is about the connection two people can find with each other and the wider world around them. Surprisingly sweet.


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