Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
Original title: Gräns
Sweden/Denmark, 2018. Meta Film Stockholm, Black Spark Film & TV, Kärnfilm, Film i Vast, Sveriges Television, Meta Film, Copenhagen Film Fund, Svenska Filminstitutet, Eurimages, MEDIA Programme of the European Union, Nordisk Film & TV Fond, Det Danske Filminstitut. Screenplay by Ali Abbasi, Isabella Eklöf, John Ajvide Lindqvist, based on the short story by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Cinematography by Nadim Carlsen. Produced by Nina Bisgaard, Piodor Gustafsson, Petra Jönsson. Music by Christoffer Berg, Martin Dirkov. Production Design by Frida Hoas. Costume Design by Elsa Fischer. Film Editing by Olivia Neergaard-Holm, Anders Skov. Academy Awards 2018. Toronto International Film Festival 2018.
Tina works as a border guard by day, skillfully knowing when travelers entering the country are carrying contraband items because she can smell their fear or guilt or shame and know immediately that they’re hiding something. This gets her involved in the investigation of an underground child porn operation which drags her into a deep funk about the state of the world, not helped by the fact the rest of her life involves an estranged boyfriend with whom she lives, and an ailing father who is quickly fading away. Tina has always felt apart from her world, with her animal-like heightened senses and unusual looks, but she doesn’t clue into why until a passenger crosses the border and immediately fascinates her: Vore looks a lot like Tina and reveals to her that she is, like him, a Troll who has been raised by human parents. Finding a sense of belonging with her new friend, the two become inseparable lovers, awakening her to an understanding that solves a lifelong problem as well as revealing to her the hatred humans have always had for her kind. When Tina discovers a deep dark secret about why Vore does all this traveling, however, she is challenged to make a decision. Excellent acting under very impressive makeup ensures that this film is not impossible to sit through despite its very gimmicky setup and preachy content, director Ali Abbasi subtly and intelligently enters us into a world where mythical creatures co-exist with regular folks but are still surrounded by the same numbing bureaucratic details that we know in reality. It delivers its details with a good dose of imagination, including its treatment of the characters’ gender and sexuality, while the big reveal towards the end is awe-inspiring despite threatening to be a cheap trick from a bad horror movie. The problem is that the script has Tina become confused about her identity, not her morality, and the film’s climax challenges the latter and not the former, dragging out a very predictable conclusion without justification.