Tina (Eva Melander) is a border guard in Sweden who works at the customs thanks to her very special talent: she can smell illegality. Simply by detecting the scent of, say, an underage drinker who is trying to bring in bottles of alcohol to the country, she can pick them out of the new arrivals and confiscate their contraband, or even arrest them. But her talent comes with a price: her looks. Her fellow staff and the public find her incredibly ugly, and the less sensitive are quite content to let her know about it, which has left her with very low self-esteem she tries to boost by upholding the law at her job. However, what if the reason for her physical form was more complicated?
Border was based on a book by John Ajvide Lindqvist, the man who had enjoyed international success both on the page and in cinemas for vampire yarn Let the Right One In, and here he had input into the screenplay as well, along with Isabella Eklöf and director Ali Abbasi, who was following up a horror tale of his own and also setting out his stall as a helmer of chillers with an arthouse sensibility. This could mean you were in for two hours of fey, purposefully studied and quirky phantasmagoria instead of a good old shocker of the sort your average horror fan would appreciate, but this was not strictly in that genre anyway, the closest thing to describe it would be a fable.
Every fable has a message for the listener, and in this instance it was posing a question: "What if you were evil but did not realise it?" What if you belonged to a society that regularly bred monsters rather than those who embraced the noble ideals you were always told were the right things to do? What if everyone you encountered was essentially a hypocrite because they had a dark side they would not admit in public, yet that public excused them or condemned them without admitting themselves they contained those same impulses to evil? Was this a case of guilty until proven innocent, but the snag was everyone was guilty? Were there any morals left in the world at all?
Time and again we see Tina treated badly, either by the thoughtless who have not stopped to think about their casual bad behaviour when its connected to her, or outright bullying, or purely because they are criminals and have devoted themselves to this? Does this make Tina good or bad, if she has the potential to be both? She believes herself to be one of the good guys and pursues a child abuse ring she uncovers when a well-dressed type is stopped at customs only to be revealed as trying to smuggle a memory card of child porn into the country. This gives her more of a sense of purpose than stopping heavy drinkers with more than their fair share of booze trying to get one over on her, and her ability to detect actual wickedness in people with her supernose sees her recruited to assist the police.
But that's not all: also on his way through the checkpoint is Vore (Eero Milonoff), who bears an uncomfortable resemblance to Tina, and seems to know a lot more about her background than he is letting on. Her father, now elderly and in a home, always told her she was his, but now it seems fibs were being employed and Vore can tell her more, clearing up such conundrums from why she loves to wander naked in the forest near her home to why she has male genitals when she is, to every other appearance, female. Soon there is one of the oddest sex scenes you'll ever see when Vore seduces her and puts his own, female genitalia to good use, and she has turfed her do-nothing live-in boyfriend out of their home, but the story does not end there as Tina's moral journey leads her to a conclusion that there is no real good in anyone: except possibly herself, which will make her the loneliest person on Earth. If she's at peace with that, then you could count Border as having a happy ending, but it may not be for you. Music by Christoffer Berg and Martin Dirkov.