Movie Review: ‘Border’
Directed by: Ali Abbasi
Starring: Eva Melander and Eero Milonoff
Plot: A border patrol officer with a strange ability meets a man with the same ability.
The phrase “modern day fairy tale” gets thrown around a good amount. I don’t want to say a lot, but it’s out there. Chances are you have heard it before, and it was probably referencing a gritty take on an old tale, like the gun-slinging Hansel and Gretel that Jeremy Renner was involved with. Or maybe it referred to a pixie or other mythological beast who was going to high school and using an iPhone. There is even a small chance it was used to describe an original period piece that feels like it could have been based on an old fairy tale, like Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.
Borders is none of those, but it may in fact be the first authentic “modern day fairy tale,” as in a postmodern morality tale that features magical creatures. A story that exists as a chance for magical creatures to have a character study rather than just be agents in some old timey author’s attempt to slip moral philosophy to young people.
This particular story revolves around Tina, a tragically ugly woman who looks more like a Neanderthal than a person. Big teeth, pronounced brow, and very straw like hair. She works for Swedish Customs, tracking undesirable elements coming in to the country. She is particularly gifted because she has a magic power for smelling people’s feelings. She often catches the people feeling guilty bringing in drugs and other contraband but makes a name for herself when she catches a pedophile travelling with a thumb drive full of the most undesirable of elements.
Her story doesn’t really start though until she meets Vore, a man with similar features to her own. She smells something different about him but unsure of what. She overreacts and conducts a lengthy and invasive search of his bags and person looking for whatever it was she sniffed out. It is only later when she finds out that what she was sensing was a kindred spirit. He becomes a sort of beast mentor explaining her supernatural nose and some other coincidental oddities about her life.
It is a big identity awakening for Tina. She finally finds a place where she fits in and excited about the secret community that Vore is seeking out. That’s where things get complicated though. Tina isn’t exactly shunned by society. She’s not an X-man, defending those who hate and fear her. She gets respect at her profession. Her super power has made her a trusted partner, and when she nabs that pedophile, she is given the opportunity to team up with the detectives. She has a great relationship with her neighbors, a young couple, pregnant with their first child, who Tina helps when they need to get to the hospital. Her relationship with men is problematic. Her live-in boyfriend is a prick, and her otherwise loving father is keeping secrets about her origin. However, she isn’t being extra taken advantage of because of her otherworldly appearance. She simply moves through society like anyone else who was insecure about their appearance would.
She was raised as a human, by humans, and generally accepted by other humans. She’s not running away from anything. She just feels like she is missing something, which makes it a big decision when she needs to choose which world she wants to live in, especially when her child abuse investigation and Vore’s quest cross paths and make it so much more than just identity politics.