Border: Sweet flirtation turns horrifying

Border depicts the burgeoning romance between Vore (Eero Milonoff) and Tina (Eva Melander, both left), who share similar facial deformities.
Border depicts the burgeoning romance between Vore (Eero Milonoff) and Tina (Eva Melander, both left), who share similar facial deformities. PHOTO: ANTICIPATE PICTURES



110 minutes/Now showing/3.5 stars

The story: Tina (Eva Melander) is an officer with the Swedish customs office, a job she excels in because she can smell human emotions like guilt. One day, she meets Vore (Eero Milonoff), who has facial deformities that resemble hers. They strike up a friendship, during which she learns truths about herself that have been kept secret since birth. Based on a short story by Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindqvist, whose vampire novel Let The Right One In was turned into two films - one made in Sweden and another in Hollywood.

If British humour is dry, then Scandinavian humour is a Martian plain on which no rain has fallen for millennia. As Tina (Melander, under exquisitely crafted, Oscar-nominated facial prosthetics) checks travellers, her look of disdain is priceless, as is the response from tourists with too much vodka in a carry-on bag.

This being a movie based on a Lindqvist story, it starts as a sweet flirtation between two physical oddballs, Tina and Vore (Milonoff), who see in each other what it means to be out of step with the mainstream, an emotion also present in Let The Right One In.

Things get less innocent as the story develops. Tina and Vore's burgeoning romance will have a bearing on how the government carried out a genocide and displacement campaign against an aboriginal race and the redress the oppressed are now seeking.

This movie makes a nice bookend to this week's other film about the erasure of a people, Us, from American film-maker Jordan Peele. Both are works of horror with a vein of blackly comic social comment.

Tina is horrified by the dietary and lifestyle options Vore presents, but her way of life, as viewed from the camera of Iranian-Swedish director Ali Abbasi, is, in a word, depressing. Her boyfriend, who lives in her home, is a parasite.

In tone though, this movie is much lighter than Let The Right One In and spends more time fleshing out what it means to live like the weirdos at its centre. The vampires in Let The Right One In were defined by not much more than their diet and the slaughter that it requires.

In lyrical scenes set in the Swedish forest, a weird and wonderful life cycle, including mating and reproduction, is revealed. It also accounts for Border's M18 rating.

There is a police thriller thread that feels out of place - the same flaw is seen in Let The Right One In, more so in the American version of the movie - but no matter, Tina and Vore's unusual love story, and Abbasi's slow unfolding of it, will stick in the mind long after the movie ends.

• Border is now showing at The Projector. Go to for bookings and schedule.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2019, with the headline 'Sweet flirtation turns horrifying'. Subscribe