Based on a short story by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Gräns follows border guard Tina (Eva Melander) as she uses a preternatural ability to literally sniff out deception to catch smugglers and criminals – with her steady yet dull routine upended after she meets and befriends a mysterious man named Vore (Eero Milonoff). It’s certainly a unique premise that’s employed to lamentably erratic effect by filmmaker Ali Abbasi, as the director has infused Gräns with a padded-out, excessively deliberate feel that is, one assumes, a consequence of the abbreviated source material – with the initial lack of an entry point for the viewer certainly compounding the hands-off atmosphere. It’s equally clear, however, that the picture benefits substantially from Melander’s hypnotic turn as the oddball central character, with the unusual relationship that ensues between Tina and Milonoff’s Vore providing the movie with bursts of unexpected, off-the-wall happenings (eg their sex scene is certainly one for the ages). The inclusion of a decidedly surprising twist at around the one-hour mark ensures that Gräns is far from the placid drama about an outsider one might’ve initially expected, and although the narrative subsequently goes in some impressively dark directions, the film remains saddled with pacing issues that ultimately diminish its overall impact – with the end result an undeniably singular piece of work that could (and should) have been much better.
**1/2 out of ****