Tina (Eva Melander) is a border guard who has the ability to smell human emotions and catch smugglers. When she comes across a mysterious man with a smell that confounds her detection, she's forced to confront hugely disturbing insights about herself and humankind.
At a ferry-port customs checkpoint, Tina is one of many polyester-uniformed guards standing watch. Short, with her features broadened and by a congenital genetic condition, and one of many in her polyester uniform, she blends into near invisibility, a cog in the system. During the day, she keeps a close eye on travelers; off the job, she has a small place surrounded by primal forest and a normal life of family, friends and work right down to her ailing dad (Sten Ljunggren) and her indifferent boyfriend Roland (Jörgen Thorsson), a dog-trainer. The only thing exceptional about Tina's work is how exceptional she's at it; in a way even she can't quite explain, Tina can literally smell guilt, fear and fury seeping off of some travelers, and her results speak for themselves. Mostly she detects booze-smugglers and other minor transgressors, but two separate travelers give off clouds of strange scent that give her reason to look closer. One is a suit-clad smoothie found to be carrying a cache of child pornography, the other is a smiling, swaggering rambler named Vore (Eero Milonoff) whose silent ways and familiar-strange features pull Tina closer.
Her search for belonging crystallises when Vore passes through customs. As Tina's strange skill and determination see her helping the police work up the chain of sex criminals she caught a small link of at the terminal, she has to go to the grey city streets and perfect 'IKEA' apartments of her suspects. Back at her home, in the woods, wild and waters, she and Vore talk and grow intertwined, as he reveals more and more secrets about his life even as he confounds and confuses her. He has many of the same scars as her, knows more about her past in some ways than she does, and soon Tina has to decide just how much of her life she's willing to upend in the name of belonging. Almost instantly, she can tell something is off about him but for the first time she can’t quite put her finger on what it's. Strangely attracted, Tina strikes up a friendship that soon blossoms into romance as she gradually learns uncomfortable truths. When the true nature of the case Tina's working and the lies about her childhood past she's uncovering lead towards friends and family, Tina will discover, for herself, who she truly is.
This film is based on the short novel 'Let The Right One In' by John Lindqvist. His way of writing and his universe is very specific, and he doesn't write 'feel-good' literature. He works in fantasy genres, or subgenres, but it always has a twist. The way he treats his characters, he uses a lot of space and effort in describing their inner conflict, and their feelings, and their emotions, and their thoughts, which is the kind of thing that you would kind of expect from 'serious literature'. Even if he's known as a fantasy writer, underneath there's always something unsettling, and something very serious, and other conflicts going on, which makes it hard to just see it as 'fantasy literature'.
"Border" is about being an outsider, but when you think about where the story comes from, John is a white guy that's totally adapted to his society, and as for being an outsider, that's not why he wrote. The experience of being outsider is not exclusive to if you're brown in a white society, or if you're a woman in a man-dominated society. You can be perfectly fit for the society you live in, but still experience. You end up in a job you don't like, or you end up in a marriage you don't. Every person has experienced how it feels to be an outsider, and that's why, in a strange way, everybody is an outsider. Or at least they know how it feels. There are always groups and places that exclude you. This story is stylized, it's not realism; there are other elements, and it's elevated. The film stylizes shots or framing that kind of signals something special is going on. It's a kind of anchors the realism. Because it isn't real, you probably wouldn't care about Tina. We've this theme through the whole film, nature versus nurture, or nature versus civilization, or whatever you want call it. The society and the socio- economic situation is really important. It's easy to justify how Tina is more human than Vore is. Tina has the context to develop empathy, which is the most critical part of being human.
The film creates a contrast between the ferry terminal and the forest, and again, as for the realism of it, that place in reality does sit exactly like that. The ferry terminal is kind of like a piece of concrete landed at the shore, just a slab on the edge of a forest. And you go inland to the forest, and then there are some small communities of houses, and the film is what the surrounding community looks like. And then there's a city an hour's drive from there. The set design is not that far from reality, and of course, the film choses more shades. The idea of monster is very connected to the idea of human being. Because monsters are always defined as; you don't call a fox a monster. The idea of monsters has always been where there's enough humanity, or elements of humanity, so that we can relate to it as some kind of human-like creature. But it's also far away enough from us so that we know that it's not human. That space is how you define a monster. The film is interested in the psychology of nature versus nurture, of what happens when you're at the limit of humanity. And what's it that defines humanity, which is a very relevant question. It isn't just an artistic or existential question like it maybe was in the eighteenth century. Not anymore.
Because soon, we're going to have legal, ethical, and technical questions to answer about humanity. And one of the core questions of the movie is, what does it take to be a human being?' It's about how nature versus nurture and similar thinking underlies a difference between Democrats and Republicans. Generally speaking, Republicans put an emphasis on nature. If you don't have a job it's because you're lazy, if you're a crack addict it's because you like drugs, if you're a criminal, it's because you've a bad nature. And generally speaking Democrats put an emphasis on nurture. If you're poor maybe it's because of the socio-economic situation, or your context, or our society. And of course, it's neither 100% this or that. To say more would spoil many of the film’s surprising revelations, but the ease with which the film infuses a social dimension with 'Scandinavian' folklore without ever losing his footing, in reality, is nothing short of breathtaking. "Border" is one of the most original and unique films of recent years. The film weaves folklore, tragic romance, and existential questions into a highly affective cinematic tale.