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article imageReview: TIFF 2018: ‘Border’ is full of hope but shrouded in danger Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Sep 16, 2018 in Entertainment
‘Border’ is a fairy tale of sorts, in which the princess discovers another world in which she could be accepted but at a cost to those around her.
Being different in a society that strives on sameness and encourages everyone to live up to cookie-cutter ideals is exceedingly difficult. Even though diversity is the word of the day, it’s still only accepted under particular circumstances; and those who still don’t fit are relegated to the category of outsiders who may participate but will never truly be integrated as a full member. Looking dissimilar from the pack is the most grievous, since it’s the most difficult to conceal. In Border, a woman uses her distinction to support national security, but the job’s prestige never quite touches her.
Tina (Eva Melander) is a customs agent at the airport, though even in uniform she stands out from her colleagues. Her features are akin to a not fully evolved Cro-Magnon with a square brow and blunted chin, as well as coarser body hair. Her unusual genes have also given her an amazing sense of smell, which she uses to identify people smuggling illegal items into the country… however, it’s not the contraband she senses, but rather their guilt or shame. One day she detects the scent of a man (Eero Milonoff) who looks like her and the two embark on a romance that builds her confidence and reveals parts of herself she didn’t know existed.
In spite of her differences, Tina has lived a relatively normal life raised by two parents with a father she visits regularly in the nursing home. She lives with a man who treats her well, is respected by her colleagues and is mostly content… until she meets Vore. There’s an attraction between them Tina cannot begin to explain and the more she tries to understand it the harder it becomes to resist. He tells her she’s beautiful and superior to those around her — and he truly means the latter as he knows more about Tina than she knows about herself. These steady revelations turn her life upside-down, forcing her to confront her father and come to terms with life never being the same again.
Tina has a fascinating connection to nature reminiscent of a Disney cartoon with wild animals ambling calmly to her side. She’s also the most comfortable wandering barefoot through the woods by her home. While Vore’s presence complements these aspects of her, he gradually also introduces negative sentiments into her world and tries to convince her to come to the dark side so to speak, which will free her from imbalanced social constraints but endanger people for whom she cares. Thus, she’s forced to ask what belonging means to her and if it’s worth sacrificing what she currently has for the unknown.
The make-up effects are extraordinary. Melander is wholly unrecognizable, transforming her entire body to play this unique character. Acting through a lot of prosthetics is not always easy, but she never misses a beat. Even when the audience can only see her naked back, she is still conveying something to them. Other practical effects later in the picture involving another of Vore’s secrets is also impressive.
This film is certainly unusual as the protagonist has attempted to fit in with the one world she’s ever known, only to discover she may actually belong to another that’s been kept secret from her. The introduction of Vore is accompanied by a lot of weirdness, but it’s also gratifying to see Tina so happy to no longer feel alone. All of these elements fit perfectly into this contemporary yet unconventional fantasy that also incorporates a mystery box and surprising proposal.
Border had its North American premiere in the Contemporary World Cinema category at the Toronto International Film Festival. Don’t miss the rest of our TIFF 2018 coverage.
Director: Ali Abbasi
Starring: Eva Melander, Eero Milonoff and Viktor Åkerblom
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