This Swedish Oscar contender is one of the strangest films I have ever seen. Yet it grabbed me from the opening scene and never loosened its grip. Its protagonist is a notably unattractive woman who works for Customs at a port where cruise ships dock. We quickly learn that she has an unusually keen sense of smell, enhanced by intuition and experience. Actress Eva Melander is forever sniffing, and periodically stops innocent-looking passengers who turn out to be smuggling contraband of one sort or another into her country. She may look peculiar but she’s good at her job.
Living life is another matter, involving a variety of challenges. She loves her father, who resides in a nursing home, and lives with a “macho man” who doesn’t seem to care much about her. Director Ali Abassi and his writing partners choose when and how to reveal the secrets that offer clues to the woman’s bizarre behavior.
The central riddle: how is she to respond to a man who shows up at customs looking very much like her. Who is he and why has he come to this port of call?
At this point I risk giving away more than I should. Just know that Border is based on a story by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who gave us the unforgettable Let the Right One In. The new film is a dark, twisted fairy tale that is worth watching so long as you know that it’s no Disney fable—and it is definitely not for children. It won the coveted Un Certain Regard citation at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and many other awards around the globe.