Grӓns (Border) film review Cannes 2018: John Ajvide Lindqvist adaptation is beautifully twisted

The latest film from the author of Let The Right One In blends rom-com, grotesquerie and bizarre fairy-tale

The adaptation of Swedish horror writer John Ajvide Lindqvist’s short story Border, from Let The Old Dreams Die, is an intriguing gem that features a hell of a lot of sexy sniffing. It’s part adorable romantic comedy of sorts and part twisted fairy-tale about the depths of human depravity. Director Ali Abbasi luxuriates in gritty, seedy texture, luscious woodland settings and impressive prosthetics. The hilarious and knotty screenplay he has co-written with Isabella Eklöf splits open the heart of dark matters and attraction in bold and jaw-droppingly surprising ways.

Tina was born with the gift of being able to smell human feelings, which comes in handy as her job as a customs inspector. Her nose guides her to sniff out shame, guilt and suspicious travellers. She’s an outsider due to her facial abnormalities which have knocked her confidence after years of cruel bullying, and yet that hasn’t stopped her from exuding a sweet kindness to those around her. Her neighbours rely on her and her useless live-in boyfriend isn’t attentive to her needs. She’s searching for the key to unlock uninhibited joy but doesn’t know where to look until she comes across a tourist named Vore who resembles her in appearance. A door is swung open and her senses begin tingling but is it love or something wicked?

Eva Melander is terrific in the lead role, transforming from gloomy resignation to free spirited forest dweller with an infectious elation. Abbasi drums up comical and sizzling hot seduction scenes between Tina and Vore and it’s both delightful and revolting to watch them go at it. Grotesquerie is gleefully pushed to its limits.

Abbasi has real fun leading the viewer through a thorny maze of troll mythology and working in a nightmarish story about the changeling child. Every time you think you’ve got a hold of what the film is about it changes course. Without wanting to give too much away there is a provocative banging of heads when it comes to political ideology and amid all the horror and outrage Grӓns unexpectedly summons up a generous spirit.