A modest but impressive film, Border (2018) takes the viewer on a strange, magical, and entirely unexpected journey. Tina (Eva Melander) is a border guard for Swedish customs. Her enhanced olfactory senses enable her to smell the fear and guilt of travelers, which makes her particularly useful for sussing out criminal activity. But one day, a man named Vore (Eero Milonoff) confuses her usually accurate skill. Like Tina, Vore has peculiar, Neanderthalic facial features she’s always assumed were, in her case, a deformity. But Vore’s arrival begins to change her self-perception, forcing her to come to terms with her life on the unwitting boundary between two cultures.
Border won’t broadly appeal to a huge audience, but as a thoughtful, inventive, strikingly different genre feature, it’s something of a small masterpiece. Leveraging Nordic lore, it’s a smart, intriguing contemporary fantasy that uses it puzzling slow build to tease out character, world-building, and insightful themes, as Tina works to balance her more animalistic impulses against her human and societal ones. There’s nothing flashy about the production, which is quite Scandinavian in its stately, somber style, but amazing prosthetic work on the lead performers combined with an intentional, satisfying script elevate it into something quite striking. An intelligent, heartfelt, and original fantasy.