'Attachment' - a tale of queer Jewish horror

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Tuesday February 28, 2023
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Ellie Kendrick and Josephine Park in 'Attachment'
Ellie Kendrick and Josephine Park in 'Attachment'

The new film "Attachment," now streaming on Shudder, is a lesbian romance, a Jewish folk tale and a horror movie all rolled into one. It's the debut offering from director Gabriel Bier Gislason. While he hasn't made a great film, he does show a flair for good storytelling and handles the film's complex plotline quite well.

The story begins in Copenhagen, Denmark, where washed up Danish actress Maja (pronounced Maya, played by Josephine Park) meets Leah (Ellie Kendrick), a young woman visiting from London. The two women fall for each other hard, and after only a day or two of knowing each other they find themselves heading to London together.

But before they leave Leah has what appears to be an epileptic seizure, during which she breaks her leg.

In London, Maja quickly sees that all is not well. Leah lives in an apartment above her mother Chana (Sophie Grabol), an ultra-Orthodox Jew, and the two have a close if troubled relationship.

It appears that Chana is mentally ill, and that Leah is sticking around to help care for her.

Things start to take a creepy turn after Maja visits a Jewish bookstore run by Leah's uncle Lev (David Dencik). Uncle Lev shows Maja several books on Jewish mysticism and tells her about Dybuuks, Jewish demons.

As the story progresses, it appears that Chana is becoming increasingly unhinged. There's a disturbing sequence in which the three women sit down for a Sabbath dinner. Shortly into the meal Maja becomes violently ill after ingesting peanuts that were mixed into her food. Maja is deeply allergic.

Leah accuses Chana of deliberately trying to kill Maka, which Chana denies.

Maja and Chana also have some private conversations in which Chana urges Maja to leave for her own good.

Maja, for her part, is becoming increasingly concerned. She finds salt sprinkled in a corner of Leah's living room as well as a prayer parchment rolled up into a hole in Leah's wall. Maja breaks into Chana's apartment and discovers that Chana is keeping objects which are used in Jewish mystical rituals, or witchcraft.

Something is obviously very wrong. Something terrifying is coming. Something that Maja is totally unprepared for.

Park is quite good in a role that requires her to display a wide range of emotions, but the film's top acting honors go to Kendrick. Her seizures are terrifying, and Kendrick uses her entire body to show how much distress Leah is in. Grabol also gives a good performance as a deeply unhappy woman who is harboring a terrible secret.

"Attachment" is a quiet film with a small cast. For most of the film the only people seen are Park, Kendrick, Grabol and Dencik. They play off each other quite well and contribute to the film's ever-encroaching sense of dread.

The only thing in the film that doesn't work is the quick and unconditional manner in which Chana and Lev accept the lesbian relationship between Maja and Leah. Ultra-orthodox Jews are notoriously homophobic. In the real world the relationship between the two women would never be accepted by Chana and Lev.

What does work beautifully is the love story between Maja and Leah. They clearly love each other deeply, and their love scenes are quite romantic.

As stated earlier, "Attachment" is not a great film but it is a good one, worth seeing if you're in the mood for something different.


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