Ugly love in Sweden
Border (Gräns) (2018): 6 out of 10: Eva Melander plays Tina a remarkably unattractive border guard in Sweden who can smell fear on the passengers departing the ferry which makes her a very effective border guard. One day she meets a man (Eero Milonoff) who is also ugly, but he has self-confidence and they seem a good fit. This is the story of their romance. Can two ugly people who find each other in Sweden find love?
The Good: There is a lot to recommend in this film. The make-up on the two leads is fantastic. The amount of prosthetics it must take to make a Swede appear unattractive is mind-blowing.
The acting is also top notch. Eva Melander, in particular, uses body language and facial movements to convey both her talents and her hurt. It really is an outstanding performance.
I often criticize movies for not going there and playing it safe. Well, Border certainly takes risks and jumps genres sometimes at a dizzying pace. My description at the beginning of this review is both accurate and misleading. This movie gets weird. Very Weird. And it owns is weirdness on its sleeve like a badge of honor.
The Bad: I liked Darren Aronofsky’s mother!. Well, I liked the first half of Darren Aronofsky’s mother! where you were uncomfortable but everything on screen was relatable, and then the allegory went off the rails and drove the entire production literally into the depths of Hell. Border does the exact same thing. It goes from curious and weird to uncomfortable and weird to oh God make it stop and weird.
Watching two ugly characters (in more ways than one) fall in love is a very unpleasant experience. Eva Melander’s makeup and acting are brilliant, but she looks like Lena Dunham doing a Geico Caveman commercial. She makes Charlize Theron’s character in Monster look like well… Charlize Theron. The sex scenes are like Japanese monster hentai done with puppetry. My eyes may never fully recover.
The Ugly: As horrifying as sex between unattractive people is, it does not win our ugly crown. With Mother! a lot of good sports were like “You know when the infant is dismembered and eaten I kind of turned on the movie.” Well, congratulations you can now add a second film to that list. (Though mostly off-camera and implied). Yay edgy European cinema. Yeah, the movie didn’t quite earn that one.
In Conclusion: Honestly, a straightforward drama about an ugly person living in Sweden or Denmark would make for an interesting film. I am not sure how a movie like this could be remade for American audiences. I can’t imagine a film crew in rural Ohio making a movie about a love story with baby-snatching. On the plus side, filming in rural Ohio would be easy enough to find actors that wouldn’t require any make-up.