Los Cabos 2018 Dispatch: BORDER and THE SISTERS BROTHERS, Two Of The Festival's World Highlights
At the core of Let the Right One In, one of the most memorable vampire films of the past decade, was Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), a lonely, misfit, and bullied young boy with little attention from his divorced parents. He found an unexpected bond of friendship and love with a girl Eli (Lina Leandersson), who initially hid a bloody secret.
Imagine that a girl equivalent to the Oskar that we know at the beginning of Let the Right One In –- that is, someone who is despised by others for being “different" –- has grown up and has incorporated into society in a productive way. With this, you have an idea of the type of character that is Tina (Eva Melander) in Ali Abbasi's Border, a Swedish film based on a short story by John Ajvide Lindqvist, also co-writer of this film adaptation and, certainly, responsible for both the original novel and the script of Let the Right One In.
Tina is a woman who works in the customs department of a Swedish port, being exceptional when it comes to carrying out her task of detecting people who pretend to introduce forbidden stuff or who are hiding something. Also, Tina maintains a relatively calm life, together with her partner Roland (Jörgen Thorsson), a dog fan who doesn't seem to hinder nor contribute much to the relationship (he’s evidently unfaithful) or to the house. Tina's peculiar physical appearance continues to cause people to view her with disdain in, say, an ordinary supermarket; deep down she has always felt rejected and, consequently, insecure.
Equivalent to the arrival of Eli in Oskar's life in Let the Right One In, Tina's daily routine changes completely when she meets Vore (Eero Milonoff), a man who usually goes through customs and who looks just as strange as her. From this encounter, Border asks: what would happen if everything that has defined Tina, for better or worse (from her acute sense of smell to her inability to have children), has a reason linked to the fantastic? And above all, how would she feel if everything she suffered for, her physical aspect in particular, is considered beautiful from another perspective?
Successfully mixing Scandinavian folklore -- if classical concepts of vampires are part of Let the Right One In, here it happens with certain beings from said mythology -- with human sordidness (issues such as child pornography are relevant in the plot), Border is a fascinating, beautiful and also somewhat crazy film about the discovery, acceptance and appreciation of oneself, as well as the decision to do good to overcome possible resentment.
In addition to Border, another of the so-called World Highlights of the Los Cabos International Film Festival was The Sisters Brothers, by French director Jacques Audiard. It's a conventional Western in its structure, but quite particular in its characters, themes and outcome.
Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly play the brothers Charlie and Eli Sisters, a pair of bandits and gunmen who work fulfilling missions for a commodore. His new goal is to find John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal), who has tracked down for them Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed), the man that the commodore wants dead.
While the fact that the mission of the brothers begins to have setbacks from the beginning should not be any surprise, nor those changes in the agendas of those involved, The Sisters Brothers stands out firstly thanks to the acting interaction of both Phoenix and Reilly and Gyllenhaal and Ahmed. The brothers have humorous moments based on their opposite personalities; on the one hand there's the wild and drunken cowboy Charlie and on the other the more measured Eli, who only became a bandit to take care of his younger brother.
The conversations between John and Hermann are interesting in another way, because they give way to bring out the background of this Western: a time when everyone was looking for gold and civilized societies, governed by laws and away from the characteristics of the old West, began to emerge.
If Eli advocates retiring from violent life -- not for nothing is his interest in the new society reflected in that detail when he buys the unprecedented products to brush his teeth -- Charlie represents the clinging to the past and to the endless violence and greed. Despite this clash, issues such as brotherhood and the importance of home are in the essence of The Sisters Brothers, a Western that starts from common points but arrives at a surprising and warm humanity that’s not always seen in the genre.