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Unique Sensibility
Raven-196925 September 2018
Shame, guilt and rage; Tina has the unique ability to sense what people are thinking. This and other qualities make her a superb border guard. She is also a daily target for bullying and snarky comments because of her looks (Tina was born with a facial disfiguration). Enter Vore, who not only looks a lot like Tina but acts like her and is surprisingly smug about it. He crosses the border frequently and keeps leading her off target with his own strange sensibilities, disrupting Tina's life. But there is something about Vore that attracts her too. "There is nothing wrong with you," Vore tells her. "If there is something different, it is because you are better." As her confidence grows, the border between Tina and herself diminishes. So do her defenses. Who is this man, and who is she?!

Border is a charming, unpredictable and extraordinary film that revolves around psychological insight and fantasy. The story telling is extremely well done and the character actors are excellent. It is full of delightful, even if unsettling, surprises. I loved that Tina had a good heart and was connected to the natural world and animals, often traveling to waterfalls, hiking in the forest and swimming in lakes night and day. A favorite at Cannes. You don't have to be Scandinavian to know what the film is about, but it helps (don't ruin the surprise by reading deeper beforehand). North American premiere seen at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.
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On the borderline of human existance
OJT8 July 2018
If you liked the Norwegian movies Troll hunter or Thale, you'll also like this Swedish-Danish co-production, which has been a festival hit at both Cannes and Karlovy Vary, and probably a lot more festivals to come. You could say the Swedes and Danes seem inspired by the folkloric tales from Norwegian directors, having huge success the latter years.

Saw this at the screening in the Thermal grand hall (cap. 1150) and hardly any went away during the showing, due to the this film being quite captivating.

Border (Originally: Gräns) first appears to be a drama about an odd looking and rather strange woman in her late thirties with a seemingly unique talent in semlling fear, and she has a suitable job as a customs inspector at a Swedish ferry port. She can sniff out guilt, shame, fear and rage. Off-duty, she is a loner, loving quietness in the woods close to her rural home, with a redneck living with her, in separate beds, and she visits her seemingly half demented father in a nursing home. But one day she meets a man which looks surprisingly like her.

This is only the beginning, as the film now takes a slide into a different genre.

Director is Ali Abbassi, who has the equally strange concepts before in the movie Shelley. Well directed and well played. This is far from being a comedy, but there are many funny moments and the audience had huge outburst of laughter.

The title "Border" is really well suited in all ways. Very much recommended, and really something else.
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Original, but just a little too strange to really grab you
themadmovieman3 November 2018
This is undoubtedly one of the strangest films I've ever seen, and although I cannot fault Border for being an original and striking piece, I can't say that it's the most enthralling film ever made either. Despite a unique and quirky premise, the film doesn't quite have the same depth in its originality, while some of its more disturbingly weird moments come across as a little too unpleasant, failing to wrap you up in the sense of bizarre wonder that could have made it a little more special.

So, the story revolves around a woman who works as a border agent, and her life as she experiences differences with those around her, as well as developing a bond with a more similar man. With a lot of prosthetic make-up, Eva Melander and Eero Milonoff are transformed into rather brutish-looking people, but through their strange, almost animal-like behaviour throughout, they begin to feel closer and closer.

That's the part of the movie that works well - the sheer bewilderment you feel at watching two people act in the least human manner possible, and the intrigue that that breeds as you attempt to figure what on earth they really are, and why they act in such a strange way. It's a unique idea that the film pushes forward with confidence and persistence, and it definitely makes Border a striking watch throughout.

However, while it's an interesting and equally confusing film from the start, Border hits a little bit of a roadblock about halfway through, as it runs out of surprises to keep you enticed and weirded-out to the same extent as its opening act.

Moving at an incredibly slow pace, the film resists giving you too much information about the true nature of these two characters, but after a while, it just becomes a point of frustration rather than intrigue. And then when you do get somewhat more of a reveal, the film is then completely out of ideas and mystery for the remainder of its runtime, failing to engross you with any sense of wonderment in a final act that's a lot more unpleasant than it is mystical.

And that's my other big problem with Border: it's just a bit too weird. At its heart, the film tells a story about accepting and understanding who you truly are, but that central theme really pales in comparison to the stranger surface of the movie. However, in an attempt to keep surprising and intriguing you, the film goes all out with some of the most bizarre elements of drama and even fantasy, to the point where it actually becomes a little disturbing, and extremely uncomfortable.

Overall, then, I found Border an intriguing and immensely bewildering film. Starting strongly with a vague yet original premise, the film does unfortunately fall apart due to a lack of real depth, a painfully slow pace, and a disturbing desire to show the weirdest things it can possibly think of. It's a unique film that did grab me, but it's definitely not for everyone.
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A Modern Fairy Tale
airman424211 December 2018
This is a weird one, in a good way. The closest thing I could compare it to is Eraserhead or Basketcase, and much like those films it's best viewed not knowing anything about it going in. Definitely a lot of growth here for writer John Lindqvist of 'Let the Right One In' fame. He really knows how to create a modern fairy tale through minimalism and his Swedish sensibilities really translate well for this story. All the performances here are terrific, especially the lead actress. I was also blown away by the prosthetic work, it's some of the best I've ever seen. Accolades aside I thought the cinematography left much to be desired and the story to be a bit predictable at points. Definitely not a film for everyone, and I'd have a hard time recommending it to most.
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the could become a cult classic
geoffeva7 August 2018
Nordic folklore is a basis for this noir tale which stays close enough to the mainstream to keep that market fascinated also.

But the theme is more than a little weird and you can't help marvel at the transformation the make up people did to the lead actress.

Although it centres around a Customs officer, the setting is a rather rural port with ferry passengers arriving from (presumably) Finland. She lives in the backwoods, inhabited by wildlife which gets a fair share of the screen time, all well presented.
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Supremely weird and morally ambiguous; certainly not for everyone
Bertaut20 March 2019
Based on the short story of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist, written for the screen by Lindqvist, Ali Abbasi, and Isabella Eklöf, and directed by Abbasi, Gräns is an intimate character drama, a study of loneliness, a romance, a police procedural, a body-horror, an investigation into what gives us our humanity, and a psychological thriller, set in a half-realist/half-fantastical milieu which sees a woman who can smell guilt and commune with animals working as a customs agent at a small Swedish port. Because, obviously! However, no matter how fanciful the plot becomes, it remains grounded in an emotional realism which serves to normalise the outrageous events we're witnessing.

Also a socio-political allegory and a mythological fable, Gräns is indefinable, switching fluidly from one genre to the next and one idea to the next, taking in such issues as the Other, the tribe, social ostracisation, social assimilation, and our tendency to rush to superficial judgements of that which we don't understand or which is different. There are, of course, a few problems; a subplot that feels disconnected from the main narrative, a ridiculous coincidence (the likes of which only ever happens in films), a twist you can see a mile away, and a pronounced moral ambiguity which is extremely difficult to parse. Nevertheless, this is unique filmmaking, which raises all manner of questions about how we act towards others, a crucial theme in a political arena which has seen unprecedented growth in casual racism and xenophobic hatred.

The film tells the story of Tina (a superb Eva Melander, acting under heavy prosthetics), a customs officer with the ability to smell guilt, which makes her exceptionally good at her job. Suffering from deformities that give her a somewhat Neanderthal-like appearance, she lives an isolated life with her boyfriend Roland (Jörgen Thorsson), who is more interested in his pet Rottweilers that he is her. Unable to have sex because it hurts her too much, she and Roland sleep in separate beds. As the film begins, Tina intercepts a man carrying child pornography, and is subsequently invited to join the police task force investigating the child porn ring. Meanwhile, she is shocked to encounter Vore (an extraordinarily physical performance by Eero Milonoff), who has the same deformities as herself. Although she smells something on him, she isn't sure what it is, and she lets him through customs. A few days later, he passes through again, this time volunteering to be searched. Her colleague conducts the body search, but quickly discovers that Vore has a vagina. When he tells Tina that Vore also has a large scar on his back, at the base of his spine, she is shocked, as she too has such a scar. Intrigued by Vore, Tina meets up with him and offers to let him stay in her guest house, much to Roland's chagrin, where she and Vore begin to grow closer.

Given the fantastical elements of the plot, one of the most interesting things about Gräns is how grounded in realism the aesthetic is. One of the strongest elements of the film is how emotionally engaging and relatable Tina's arc is; the events are fantastical in places, but the emotions are very much grounded in the every day - loneliness, shyness, fear, love, disgust etc. The magic realist aesthetic allows the more unusual elements to exist without seeming (too) ridiculous, whilst also establishing that the world of the film is essentially the real world, just with some garnish added.

Abbasi does set up a contrast, however, between the scenes in the forest which surrounds Tina's home and the rest of the locations. The forest is presented as a somewhat magical place from the start - it is where Tina is most comfortable (an early scene in which she chills with a gigantic moose is both illustrative of her psychology and extremely beautiful), where she goes when life starts to overwhelm her, often taking her shoes off so as to feel better connected to the natural world. Later, the forest is where Tina and Vore spend a lot of their time, where they give in to their attraction to one another (in what is easily the most bizarre sex scene outside a Lizzy Borden film you're likely to see all year), and where they explore their history. Whilst everything else is filmed with a cold palette dominated by grey and washed out light blues and greens, with relatively unattractive locations, the forest is presented very differently - the colours are richer and deeper; the design elements more imaginative; the camera work more fluid; even the sound design is different, heightening the crunch of feet on the forest floor, the scurrying of insects, the wind blowing through the trees, the crash of water at a small waterfall, suggesting the whole place is vibrant and alive, in stark contrast to the cold concrete and steel world seen elsewhere.

Thematically, Gräns functions as both a straightforward narrative about loneliness and morality and as a political allegory about the Other, belonging, tribalism, hatred based on difference. The opening scene establishes Tina as the emotional lynchpin of the story, showing both her kindness and her attraction to the animal world, as she gently handles a bug, before carefully placing it back into the grass. This theme continues throughout the film - there's the aforementioned scene with the moose, a scene with a fox at Tina's window in the middle of the night, a scene in which she is rushing her neighbour to hospital to give birth and stops to let a family of deer cross the road. These scenes are shot by cinematographer Nadim Carlsen with a sense of wonder, and an almost ethereal quality. It's as far removed from the mundanity of the customs desk or the brutality of the child porn ring as you can imagine. This is also reflected in the sex scene, which Abbasi and Carlsen shoot in such a way as to imply that Tina and Vore attain an emotional and spiritual transcendence far removed from the commonplaceness of an orgasm.

For all her closeness to animals, however, Tina is just as distant from humans, and she's desperately lonely, in a society that shuns based on appearance. Indeed, one of the most salient themes in the film is the question of how we treat the Other, people who don't fit into our definition of normal, or whom we don't understand. Vore himself is introduced as something of a rebel against social norms; whereas Tina is ashamed of and tries to hide her differences from everyone else, he is proud of and leans into his - seen most clearly at a buffet, where he takes all the smoked salmon, and then hungrily eats it with little concern for social etiquette (or buffet etiquette).

The film also touches on issues such as what gives us our humanity, suggesting that in a world populated by humans lacking in humanity, maybe Tina and Vore are the most human characters, or certainly the most humane. Tied to this is the notion of finding one's tribe, and what kind of sacrifices and subversions of one's moral code, if any, are acceptable in that search. However, the film does end in an extremely morally ambiguous manner. I'm not sure if it had a happy ending or not, and although I got most of the symbolism and the allegories and the socio-political critiques, I've rarely come out of a movie with such a pronounced case of "what was the director trying to say with that?"

Elsewhere, the whole child porn subplot is troubling from a narrative point of view. For starters, it's not very convincing in its concrete details (for example, Tina is allowed sit in on a suspect interrogation). Additionally, for the most part, the subplot serves to do little but detract from the main plot. I get that it's there to show us Tina's abilities and her moral code, but too much time is given to it without it being made to seem in any way urgent or important. And when it is finally integrated into the main narrative, it happens with a plot twist so telegraphed, if you don't see it coming, you've never seen a movie before. Also, when we learn how the two plots connect, and when we backtrack to the start of the film, we find that the entire house of cards relied on a monumental coincidence which cheapens both plot strands.

These missteps aside, Gräns posits a message about how being different isn't that bad when you still have your morals and self-respect. It also suggests to those of us that consider ourselves normal, that we shouldn't be so quick to judge the Other, whether that Other is physically different, of a different ethnicity, a different religion etc. Exposing the layers upon which our society is built, the film is unafraid to suggest that hypocrisy and exclusion are major facets of Western civilisation, an important topic at a time when there are increasing calls for closed borders, increasingly irrational fear of the Other, and increasingly jingoist and xenophobic hatred of anything not perfectly in line with established societal norms. The plot does go off the rails in the third act, and the morality of the dénouement is a little questionable, but this is still a fine piece of work with a lot on its mind.
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Unique, weird yet in a strange way beautiful.
muamba_eats_toast8 March 2019
Not for the faint hearted. The film had me completely engrossed I have never seen anything like it. Extremely weird sometimes even disturbing but a strange array of beauty emminatea from the lead despite this. Plenty of twists and turns along the way an extremely enjoyable watch.
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I wanted to like it more than I did, unnecessarily edgy *spoilers*
bigteddybacon29 April 2019
Warning: Spoilers
The fact that it was so bizarre, I can cope with. I like bizarre, but the thing that lost me was the baby-raping angle. It's completely unnecessary to drive the plot forward. Vore could have been guilty of any number of terrible crimes to convince the viewer that Tina could not morally coexist with, and they chose "selling stolen children into baby-raping human trafficking rings". They picked the worst, most disgusting crime possible for no reason, in my opinion, other to be shocking and edgy. It's so deliberately "the worst thing you can possibly think of" that it literally ruins the movie for me. The movie was bizarre and surreal enough to carry it just fine without this hack edgelord BS.
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What if it was really real?
BobNoOneHundred1 October 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Zombies, vampires, trolls - John Ajvide Lindqvist seems to be asking himself, what if such things were real? how would they be? how would we react?

With his approach the creatures become relevant again, and we are reminded why they were brought to life in the first place.

And how fortunate that J.A.L.'s visions have fallen into the hands of such talented film makers who can realize them so masterfully on the screen!
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An amazingly unique modern fairy tale with amazing acting and makeup
patricjmiller27 November 2018
My title pretty much says it all. It was really engaging and fun in the way it slowly but surely revealed the key elements. The makeup was so pefectly done, it made you realize just how imperfectly common so many people are...and how deeply personal our subtle differences are. Grimm Bros, Roehl Dahl, and DelTorro combined.

Simply loved it!
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Truly a work of art!
shane013a-111 December 2018
What starts out with its feet somewhat on the ground, this story takes off almost immediately for parts unknown but desperately desired. While there is no part phoned in, the transition of Eva Melander's Tina will keep you in awe throughout this too short tale. Yes it does give us folklore and such but the work doesn't even slow down there. This is a morality tale of the highest caliber. I only hope it will make a big impression on all who are privileged to be able to view it. Good luck!
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Unique and fascinating
proud_luddite13 January 2019
Tina (Eva Melander) works as a Swedish border agent. She has animal-like features that include the ability to successfully detect fear, guilt, and shame in troublesome border crossers. As the film progresses, she is asked to use her special abilities to expose a child pornography operation. During this time, she also meets another human with animal-like characteristics.

Melander is in almost every scene and she more than lives up to the difficult task of keeping the film fascinating. Even in extended moments of routine home life, the film is always engaging thanks mainly to Melander and director Ali Abbasi. The film may indeed be bizarre but it is always intriguing.

It takes on many themes though perhaps too much as there are various loose ends by the conclusion. But it goes into territory that is rarely explored: the isolation felt by beings (troll-like humans in this case) who are different from most people they encounter. As Tina meets someone like her, she goes through a coming-out self-discovery. This narrative is at least as fascinating as the crime story.
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Really weird, original, dark.. and really good!
gwest-581604 November 2018
I recommend this to anyone that loves weird films, because this is certainly one of them!

Gripping throughout, dark, good story and performances, unpredictable, very original.

A high 7/10!
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Jarring Tonal Shifts Mar This Ambitious Directorial Debut
roblesar9926 September 2018
Weird does not equal good. But it does equal very interesting. Director Ali Abbasi's BORDER is basically a modern-day fairy tale... with nudity, sex, illegal crime, and even a shocking act of violence. I'm not quite sure that this meshing of genres works, and indeed the film is at its best when it solely focuses on the main protagonist (played by Eva Melander) and her attempts to tap into her true nature. The film gets bogged down simply because Abbasi attempts to do too much (it's almost as if Abbasi and his co-writers Isabella Eklöf and John Ajvide Lindqvist had two very different ideas for a film and then tried their best to bring them together in a somewhat cohesive manner). This genre see-saw unfortunately leads to some glaring tonal shifts, with the film ultimately growing too dark for me in its final act. I don't mind dark films, but I do mind when a film has mostly presented itself in one way only to shift rather abruptly as it builds to its conclusion. I realize I'm being vague here, but this is truly a film that should be watched with as little knowledge of the plot as possible. I will give Abbasi credit for having a vision and sticking with it - from the first frame to the last he does not compromise what he wants this film to be. And also, the prosthetic and make-up work is truly outstanding.
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Unique concept to make a movie like this
BasicLogic11 February 2019
This movie has shown how a screenplay writer and a director could make something so unique into a movie and recruited the 1st rated make-up artist to transform a pretty actress and a handsome dude into Homo Neanderthalensis-like primitive European ancestor and put them in a modern movie. Jesus, the idea and the whole story simply amazed me, 'cause it's so weird to see a woman and a man looked so primitive with Hominoidean-like faces to exist in a modern society. The idea to make such woman with abhorrent face as a customs officer, using her unique primitive animal-like sense of smell and instinct to catch the weirdos through the customs was so ingenious, then had her meeting a male with a face exactly like hers was another ingenious idea. But the ingenuity didn't stop right there. This woman not only had a legit husband (wonder how that guy would marry a woman with such a face and called her his honey....Jesus...) , the storyline also made her fall for guy with the similar face and became a lover committing adultery to this guy.

This movie is so far the most unique movie I've ever seen. If you are getting tired of those stereotyped computerized CGI Sci-fi craps, this movie might get you revitalized as a born-again movie lover.
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One of the most original and fantastical movies of the year
paul-allaer30 November 2018
"Border" (2018 release from Sweden; 110 min.) brings the story of Tina. As the movie opens, we get to know Tina, a Swedish Customs inspector, who happens to have an obvious facial deformity, as well as a heightened sense of smell which allows her to detect how people feel (shame, rage, fear, etc.) One day she is able to sense something on a guy, and it turns out he was hiding a memory card containing child pornography. The police are amazed at her abilities, and ask her to assist in the investigation as to who made the pornography. Meanwhile in a parallel story, one day a guy passes through Customs, and he happens to have a very same facial structure... At this point we are less than 15 min. into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience.

Couple of comments: this is the latest movie from up-and-coming Iranian-Swedish writer/director Ali Abassi. Here he brings a tale to the big screen that without a doubt is the one of the most original and fantastical movies of the year, period, and I see more than 150 movies per year. Given the plot-heavy nature of the movie, I can't say a whole lot more, so you'll just have to take my word for it. And even simply describing the plot would never equate to the actual movie experience. The comparison is unfair, but I can't help but think back to another Swedish movie from now already 10 years ago that also surprised us out of nowhere: "Let the Right One In". The comparison is unfair because that is a horror film, and "Border" certainly is not that. But it's the originality that strikes me as the common character in both. Beware: there are some scenes in "Border" that some people will find absolutely disturbing, if not worse. No, this movie is not for the faint-hearted, that's for sure. Major kudos to Eva Molander in the role of Tina, under heavy make so that she's basically unrecognizable, but what a performance, oh my!

"Border" premiered at this yer's Cannes film festival, to universal acclaim. Sweden has also submitted this as its official entry for the 2019 Best Foreign Language Movie nominations. The movie opened out of the blue at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati, and the Thursday early evening screening where I saw this at was not attended well (5 people, including myself). As it turns out, Thursday was the last day of its limited 1 week run. I can's see this playing long in theater, and I'm also quite certain that Hollywood will not end up remaking it (as it did with "Let the Right One In"), for that "Border is just too "out there". But don't let that deter you from checking it out, be it in the theater (not very likely), on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion. For me, "Border" is a WINNER.
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I loved it!
dimitrijejanic30 March 2019
OK, the movie is not for everyone but even if you are not a fan of this kind of movies, you should watch it. The acting is pure 10. The masks or prostetics are fenomenal. Scenario is really good written. Strange (in a good way) story of strange "people".
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Powerful But Disturbing Folk Horror
Pairic13 March 2019
Border (Gráns): A film which might best be described as Swedish Folk Horror as it mixes tropes of Trolls and Changelings with everyday Human Horror. Tina (Eva Melander) is different, she has a somewhat neanderthal appearance but also possesses strange talents. She works as a Customs Officer and can literally sniff out out wrongdoers, whether they are smuggling alcohol, drugs or other contraband. She literally becomes aware of their sense of fear and guilt. One day she meets someone who looks as odd as herself passing through her Customs channel, a man called Vore (Eero Milonoff). They sniff at each other and thus begins what might be a beautiful relationship or a nightmare.

This is the story of another species of Human or perhaps something far stranger, it depends on whether you view the film as Science Fiction/Horror or Fantasy/Horror. Tina and Vore are closer to nature, they run naked through forests and swim in lakes, have a relationship with animals that allows them to commune. They fear thunder storms, seem to attract lightning. But the story takes a far darker as Vore doesn't just want to make more little Trolls, he also has a lust for vengeance. To make humanity pay for driving Trolls to the point of extinction. There are also some extraordinary gender-bending episodes in Border and an intriguing explanation for the nature of Changelings is proffered.

Moving performances by Melander and Milonoff as they explore their angst, loss and alienation. A disturbing but powerful film which will make you think about the nature of differences and what constitutes a Monster. Director/Co-Writer Ali Abbasi delivers an original contribution to the Troll Film Genre. 9/10.
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surreal drama fantasy
AziziOthmanMY23 February 2019
Main concept of the movie is about connection and this captured the essence of the story itself told in simple and honest storyline.
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Strange And Wonderful
socratesadamo27 January 2019
BORDER is a new film that is unlike anything you've ever seen before. It is totally intriguing throughout and guaranteed to entertain AND make you think. I won't give away too much of the plot. Don't look it up or read anything about if you can help it (although if you're reading this then I guess it's already too late).

It's better if you just go watch it without knowing anything in advance. But the acting is great and the story is even better. Highly recommend.
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Northern European fantasy , the weird
phuketboy18 February 2019
Most fascinating Swedish fantasy since the "Let The Right One In, 2008"

In Korea there is legendary fable that 9 tailed fox falling in love with human has born a tailed baby. this movie reminds that.

Very attractive.
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Different beauty
kosmasp13 February 2019
Now some things may not look "pretty", but it's always in the eye of the beholder. We are used to a certain look, to a certain beauty standard. The makeup is amazing in this, again if you don't mind this going against what you might find enticing and beautiful to look at.

Now I really wanted to stress this, because we are used to glamour and all that. But it's not just those things the movie goes up against. It's also tough to put a mark on this. It is kind of a love story, but it's also more of a drama and then there is also a thriller in there. So you get quite a few things, not to mention the fairy tale aspect of it (or at least fantasy portion). It really won't be something for a lot of people, for a lot of reasons. But if you are ok with odd, if you are ok, with not conventional storytelling, with weird characters, with outsiders overcoming things and reputation, then this will entertain you, but not in the sense a Hollywood movie would.

It's hard to describe, but there is beauty within
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Yaasssss! Gnarly Story
I loved this film! What a great story. 100% Kept my attention. Didn't look at my phone once. I really was not expecting that. I highly recommended this film. Was one of the best films I've seen in a while.
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roycedressel-544353 October 2018
Great movie. Fantastic concept. Timely. I expect some astonishing results from NEON pictures.
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JJ_Seb17 April 2019
If you like looking at pretty people falling in love, this is not one for you. Border guard Tina is no looker but she can smell drugs, and pretty much anything else better than a bloodhound. When she finds herself drawn towards a similar looking 'chap' she is intrigued and troubled as parts of her yet to be reached (for obvious reasons) begin to stir. This strange couple gets together for the odd (very) romantic tryst and finally share what can only be described as a sex scene to change your life. I sat in the cinema open-mouthed - closing it sharpish in case something slipped in. But the path of true love never runs smooth - especially if your new found other half has the kind of hidden depths that make you shudder and a decidedly odd moral code. Unusual, magical, poetic and occasionally a little slow, Border will not leave you untouched - even while it creeps you out.
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