Review: ATTACHMENT, The Truth Will Keep You Trapped
Maja (Josephine Park) has not had much success as an actress, being best know as a storytelling elf from an old television series for children. But this did give her the opportunity for a meet-cute with the somewhat younger Leah (Ellie Kendrick, Game of Thrones), who is doing some reseach in Denmark on Jewish folklore. After an bad injury sustained during a seizure, Leah must return home to London, and Maja, who has already formed a strong connection to the young woman, joins her. That means entering into Leah's orthodox Jewish community, and effectively sharing a household with Leah's overbearing and overprotective mother, Chara (Sophie Gråbøl).
While this description might sound like the opening of a romantic comedy, Attachment is far from it. Rather, Gabriel Bier Gislason's feature debut is a very intimate, very atmospheric, and quietly frightening horror film. Steeped in a particular legend of Jewish mythology, it looks at different ideas of possessiveness, who gets to speak for the person they love, and who ultimately has control at what cost.
Maja might be the more outgoing and secure of the pair, but her awkwardness both at first with Leah, and later with Chara, show a woman who struggles to get things right. Once she knows what she wants, though, she will protect and nuture that, and this means Leah. Leah is a bright and happy woman, despite certain ailments she suffers, ones that it seems Chara has all the answers for. Chara cooks food just for her daughter, she keeps her on a schedule, she tells Maja when she should let Leah rest.
Maja wants Chara s approval, and so at least at first acquiesces. But then the strange moments are growing: a candle always being lit at night, salt in the corners of the rooms, Leah's injury not improving despite medical care. And when Leah's Uncle Lev (David Dencik) suggests it might be something else that's controlling the household, Maja is determined to rescue the woman she desperately loves. Where is the monster coming from, and who does it want to destroy?
Maja not only has to navigate Leah's family relationships, she has to navigate this Hasidic Jewish community; even if Leah only follows some of the traditions (and it seems her family gives at least grudging approval to her being a lesbian), this is completely new territory for Maja. Park abolutely makes us feel her awkwardness and also, at times, her rather privileged position as the outsider who can walk away at any time if she wants. As Maja keeps pushing for the truth, Chara both embraces and wants to drive away her potential daughter-in-law; she has born this burden for so long, she cannot imagine sharing it with any outsider.
The script gives a great balance in understanding of these three women, and how each has experiences the world differently, and each are operating out of love, even if that manifests in different ways. When is a relationship too co-dependent? Should you always choose familial love over romantic? When does tradition become a hindrance as opposed to a safety net? Bier Gislason works more in the realm of creeping dread. Introducing lesser known Jewish mythology, and the monsters that come with it, allows us to dig into these relationships and identities that form from the push and pull of what we want and what we are forced to do.
Attachment will stream exclusively on Shudder beginning February 9th.
- Gabriel Bier Gislason
- Gabriel Bier Gislason
- David Dencik
- Ellie Kendrick
- Sofie Gråbøl