A meet-cute and whirlwind romance gets complicated by overbearing parents, and clashing religions make for a familiar setup to the romantic comedy. Writer/Director Gabriel Bier Gislason reinvigorates the concept by framing it through the lens of horror in Attachment. It’s not just an overbearing mother and Orthodox Judaism presenting roadblocks to budding love, but an ambiguous and eerie problem of possession.

Has-been Danish actress Maya (Josephine Park) bumps into the younger Jewish academic Leah (Ellie Kendrick, “Game of Thrones”) at a library, where Maya’s late to entertain children as her former popular Christmas TV character. Though chaotic, sparks fly between the pair. They fall fast for each other, but Leah soon suffers a seizure that results in an injury and prompts a return home to London. Maya, fearing her relationship will get cut short, chooses to accompany Leah. There she meets Leah’s overbearing mother, Chana (Sofie Gråbøl), who lives in the downstairs flat. Not only is Chana unwelcoming and abrasive, but her volatile relationship with Leah’s uncle (David Dencik) hints at dark family secrets. It’s only the tip of the iceberg; strange behaviors and unsettling experiences of relationship interference might extend to the supernatural, with Leah harboring the biggest secret of all.

Gislason carefully layers in the worldbuilding obstacles between Maya and Leah, taking care to instill rooting interest in this romance despite the core protagonists not knowing much about one another. It’s not just the relationship that’s new for Maya, but Leah’s Jewish background. It makes Maya’s role trickier in trying to learn family traditions and win over the aloof Chana while attempting to understand Leah’s strange nightly behaviors. Conversely, Leah knows her family better than her love interest; therefore, she is far more dismissive of Maya’s concerns.

Gislason uses the normalcy of early relationship woes as a foundation for horror allegory. The friction between Chana, Maya, and Leah breeds tension and conflict. It sets up a supernaturally charged metaphor for codependency. Leah and Chana need each other, but which one is more parasitic than the other? Is it all in Maya’s head as the one unwitting driving a wedge between mother and daughter? The filmmaker succeeds in presenting complex dynamics and love obstacles before even weaving in the Dybbuk.

As things grow tenser for the characters, so, too, does the horror. Gislason layers the terror with methodical precision. Leah’s seizures start as unsettling but benign, but symptoms increase with regularity and palpable dread. Before long, it becomes clear a far more malevolent presence has entered the equation, bringing many chilling moments that showcase Kendrick’s talent for toggling emotions and personas with ease. Framing much of the story through Maya’s perspective prolongs the truths in a fascinating, enigmatic way that adds an unpredictable quality.

Once the pieces do click in place, however, Attachment falls prey to the familiar possession formula. A too tidy climactic conclusion diminishes its emotional impact and wraps up this messy relationship triangle with ease. It deflates so much pent-up and well-earned tension.

Engaging performances, a unique and dread-soaked world, and a flair for spooky horror grounded in realism set Attachment apart. The horror allegory for codependency told through Orthodox Judaism reinvigorates an oft-stale subgenre, even though Gislason’s simple resolution can’t avoid possession pitfalls by the journey’s end.  

Attachment premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, and release date on Shudder TBD.

 



Source link