“Borderline” is a film that attempts to navigate the complex terrain of mental illness, addiction, and relationships but fails in many ways at delivering a compelling and sensitive narrative.
Written and directed by Rich Mallery the movie introduces us to Charli (played by Kate Lý Johnston), a young woman diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) at the age of 18. The film traces her tumultuous journey as she grapples with her condition, substance abuse, and her feelings for her best friend, Zee (played by Kylee Michael).
The film’s major strength lies in the portrayal and delivery of the character Charli. Right from when the film starts and we are introduced to her, we see her struggles, they are evident, and it becomes almost easy to understand her frustrations and choices. Johnston delivers the role with so much conviction as she properly characterises the emotional turmoils of the character. You see the sudden intense mood swings, the obsessiveness and the pervasive fear of abandonment. You naturally start to fear for her safety with the limits that her addiction to drugs.
One of the film’s subplots revolves around Charli‘s unrequited feelings for her best friend, Zee. While this adds complexity to the character, the development of that subplot feels underutilized and lacks depth. Viewers may struggle to fully invest in the emotional dynamics between the two characters.
Where “Borderline” begins to falter is in its execution and storytelling. The narrative feels disjointed and lacks a cohesive flow. It often veers into melodrama, making it challenging to fully connect with the characters and their experiences. While the film aims to address sensitive topics such as mental illness and addiction, it occasionally resorts to clichés and fails to offer a fresh perspective on these issues. The narrative is simply generic and doesn’t seem distinct to the character we have been introduced to and her struggles.
The creators of the film label it as a “Psychosexual Thriller,” yet this theme feels underdeveloped. Aside from a handful of hallucinatory sequences featuring the protagonist, Charli, the movie appears to prioritize an excessive number of nude and semi-nude scenes for Charli, seemingly catering more to the voyeuristic inclinations of certain viewers than serving any meaningful character development.
In terms of production quality, “Borderline” is constrained by a limited budget. The sets and overall visual presentation lack the polish and sophistication seen in higher-budget productions. It doesn’t look or feel cinematic or artsy in any way. Giving off a very amateurish feel, from uneven sound levels to echoey rooms that depict that they weren’t sound treated for the sake of the scene at least.
All this to some extent can be forgiven considering that it is an indie film, but it is unpardonable, particularly with the standard that many indie filmmakers try to achieve in recent times even with limited resources.
I would rate this film 5/10.
In the end, “Borderline” offers a glimpse into the challenges faced by individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder and their struggles with addiction and relationships. While it succeeds in portraying some aspects of this complex condition, it falls short of delivering a cohesive and emotionally resonant narrative.
Despite the film’s earnest intentions and decent performance by the lead character, it is likely to leave viewers wanting a more nuanced and impactful portrayal of its central themes.