Abbasi's second film is based on a short story by Let the Right One In's John Ajvide Lindqvist and features the same sort of ubiquitous loneliness of the Other. Abbasi has said he wanted to emphasize the experience of being a minority, and Tina is repeatedly shown to be maligned, sometimes subtly but often not. She is stared at in grocery stores, she finds herself looking at closed doors that she realizes she has no power to open, and she lives with someone whose indifference is outmatched by the outright aggressive behavior of his three dogs who clearly detest her. And yet, to typify her experience as a metaphor for the minority, for the immigrant or for the transgender (both of which Abbasi denies), is irresponsible when we see how the story unspools. In many ways, Border is a love story...not even necessarily of Tina and Vore, but of Tina and herself. For Tina, she is able to feel both remarkably beautiful but also finds liberation in being normalized. But while it's important for her to grow and appreciate herself, it is not necessary to do so at the price of discarding humanity itself, especially if she is meant to embody a minority.
As a character, Tina is kind -- you see it in her interactions with others, namely her father, and in the childlike wonder as she communes with nature and the animals around her (besides, for whatever reason, dogs). The film tries to balance a high-falutin idea in introducing the worst of humans, and yet emphasizing that perhaps it is the best of what humans are capable of that prevents Tina from completely abandoning them. No more should be said plot-wise at the risk of spoiling Border, but there is a disavowal of nuance and depth in Tina's ultimate choice. Her kindness comes from some of the goodness in life, even as she has experienced cruelty. When Abbasi looks through a cut and finds a scene or a frame that looks too "good", he'll reportedly cut it out, because he doesn't want the beauty of an image to distract from the film. Unfortunately, this application applies to both his visuals and his storytelling, but to deny that beauty is to disturb the verisimilitude of its subject. There is good in humans, and there is beauty in the life that Tina lives -- and to ignore that is to simplify the subtlety of her moral decisions.
More than anything else, Border is interesting because of its genre bends and plot twists, but beneath the core of that there's not much of a beating heart. Abbasi is certainly to be appreciated for what he has attempted with the film, but it could have spent more time on the borders between nature and nurture, the borders we place within our hearts, and the borders we traverse to connect with other people outside of those we look like.