Border is a new Swedish film, the country’s official entry into the Best Foreign Language Film race in the 91st Academy Awards. The movie is about a customs officer that can smell emotion who forms a connection with a mysterious traveler that may know some secrets about her existence. The film has been getting strong reviews since its debut at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.
It is hard to describe much of this movie without spoiling the plot. The first half of the film is absolutely captivating, drawing you into its world and mystery. Unfortunately, the big reveal is underwhelming, with the second half feeling frustratingly direct and unambiguous with its messaging.
Another significant issue with the movie is that it seems to be focus heavily on shock value at the expense of fully developing its themes. The sexual elements of the film come to mind as particularly problematic. They aren’t necessarily graphic or gratuitous — they just seem designed to make the audience shocked.
The pacing is also inconsistent. There are some parts in which the pacing is extremely quick, making the movie feel like a thriller, whereas in other parts, the pacing is slower and the film is much more contemplative. Had the movie chosen and stuck with one of the two styles, it would have been much more effective and interesting.
That being said, the script does have some interesting ideas. The way in which European mythology is incorporated is frequently fascinating. However, it would have been nice if this had played an even larger role in the narrative. The story also has some deeper themes involving identity and one’s place in the world, and the film is far more interesting when these are being explored.
Additionally, the execution is quite strong. The visuals are surprisingly solid. Much of the movie has a very surreal and dreamlike feel, developed through the cinematography and production design. The makeup and practical effects are both highly impressive, as is the minimal use of CGI.
The actors do quite well in their roles too. Eva Melander gives a phenomenal lead performance. Her character is very subdued, and she does a good job with it, adding a lot of emotional nuance. Eero Milonoff is also great. He nails the “mysterious drifter” archetype, but adds a lot of emotional depth and sensitivity.
Overall, Border is certainly an interesting film, and while it should be praised for its bold vision, it is somewhat uneven. However, this movie is of the type that could easily gain cult status.
Border is now playing in select theaters.