Attachment - New Release Review
Director: Gabriel Bier Gisalson
Starring: Ellie Kendrick, Josephine Park, Sofie Gråbøl, David Dencik
Written by: Gabriel Bier Gisalson
Produced by: Thomas Heinesen
Cinematography by: Valdemar Winge Leisner
Original Score by: Johan Carøe
After suffering a mysterious seizure, Leah returns to her home in London with new girlfriend Maya and introduces her to her mother for the first time. But her mother has some dark secrets.
'Attachment' is a slow burn tale about possession steeped in Jewish folklore and while it has its atmospheric, creepy moments, it is actually surprisingly comedic and very touching.
After an initial meet cute in a Danish library, Leah (Ellie Kendrick) and Maja (Josephine Park) decide to get a drink together and spend the evening telling stories about their life. One thing leads to another and the two become intimate. Leah, who despite having a Danish mother has never visited the country, is only here briefly as part of her thesis research and needs to return home to England but she purposely decides to stay a little longer with Maja.
The first fifteen minutes of the film is really quite endearing. It took me by surprise just how much I enjoyed watching Leah and Maja become friends and then lovers. Their conversation which runs through the night is really sweet and beautifully shot. Their whirlwind romance is portrayed with sincerity and both Ellie Kendrick and Josephine Park really sell themselves as two loner types who are at a crossroads in their own lives. Maja is a former actress who is trying to rekindle the bug by appearing as an entertainer at children's parties and Leah is an academic who comes across as a little younger and a little less damaged. Although soon we will find out that that is not entirely true.
After injuring her leg in a mysterious seizure Leah must return home to London and in a moment of spontaneity Maja decides to join her. Their relationship may be new and fresh and exciting but when Leah introduces Maja to her deeply religious mother Chana, things become complicated and dangerous.
Leah comes from a family of Hasidic Jews an although she isn't exactly a practitioner anymore she has a profound respect for her mother and her beliefs. Much of the film focusses on Maja's attempt at understanding those beliefs and then exploring the lore behind the religion itself. She does this with the assistance of Leah's Uncle Lev (David Dencik) who owns a Jewish bookstore and through her examinations she is made aware of a demon known as a dybbuk. Derived from the Hebrew word dibbūq meaning "a case of attachment", the dybbuk is believed to be the dislocated soul of a dead person now turned into a malicious, mythical spirit that clings to the living and only leaves its host once it has completed its goal.
Gisalson knows how to tell this story correctly and uses the location as a character too. There's a sense of claustrophobia present and it sorta works as a metaphor for Leah and Chana's relationship, which continually proves to be a struggle even though it's clear the two love each other very much.
Structurally 'Attachment' does play out like a traditional horror film but tonally it decides to do things a little different. With a few notable exceptions, the film doesn't rely on horror tropes and instead leans into the family drama side of things when it could have easily chosen jump scares or even disconcerting imagery to help tell its story. It doesn't do that at all, at least not until the final sequence and even then it holds back, letting the actors do all the work.
There's a fair amount of subtle humour in here too which really balances everything out and helps to make the pacing work well. It's slow pacing doesn't actually feel slow either thanks to the brilliant performances from both Kendrick and Park and especially Sofie Gråbøl who plays Chana.
- Gavin Logan
'Attachment' is available to stream exclusively on Shudder from February 9th