Maja, a Danish has-been actress, falls in love with Leah, a Jewish academic from London. Leah suffers a mysterious seizure, and Maja returns with her to London. There, she meets Leah’s mother, Chana, a woman who could hold dark secrets.
Editing: Nikoline Logstrup
Music: Johan Caroe
Cast: Josephine Park, Ellie Kendrick, Sofie Grabol, David Dencik
Directors: Gabriel Bier Gislason
Writers: Gabriel Bier Gislason
Cinematography: Valdemar Winge Leisner
As a feature directorial debut, Attachment is something of a bold choice for writer/director Gabriel Bier Gisalson. Playing in multiple genres, twisting horror rules on their head and not embracing norms for the genre has led to Gisalson’s debut, Attachment, to be a must-watch thanks to the tight direction, charming characters and scares built-in earned dread.
You may have to question the genre as Attachment begins with a romance story that feels fluffy, light and playful — the first ten or fifteen minutes feeling like something out of a mid-afternoon rom-com. Maja (Josephine Park) meets student abroad, Leah (Ellie Kendrick), while in a library. Maja is a washed-up actress wearing her most famous costume, that of an elf, to a children’s event. In contrast, Leah was there to study. After literally bumping into one another, they hit it off and began spending a lot of time together. But when Leah has a seizure and decides to head home to be with her mum, Maja comes along. However, early red herrings are placed in regard to Maja and Leah’s relationship potentially being an issue for Leah’s mum, Chana (Sofie Grabol), a Hasidic Jew with many secrets. But as Chana begins to smother Leah with attention, Maja starts to wonder if more is going on than meets the eye.
The underlining sense of mystery and eventual discovery lies in Jewish mysticism — a fresh direction for a genre obsessed with Catholicism and the bare basics of God and the Devil. Attachment uses the Jewish faith here in interesting ways, and although I’m not well-versed enough to tell you just how much of the film could be based on a real person or throwing as many wild punches as the Catholic Church is used in similar movies.
Josephine Park and Ellie Kendrick are superb, with a palpable spark of chemistry between the two. Gabriel Bier Gislason is focused on pushing a believable romance to make the film’s final act work. But this is a film with three lead women at the centre, and where Park’s performance as the love interest that’s willing to push through anything for the women she’s just met, there’s also Sofie Grabol amongst it all as the mother who may love a little too much. She isn’t trying to push her gay daughter into the cupboard to hide her sexuality, but it seems she’s interested in pushing her into it and keeping her to protect and care for, and Grabol plays the mix of love, and oddly terrifying mysticism surrounding Chana perfectly.
A refreshing direction for a well-done horror genre, the focus on character and building tension out of the story rather than moments propels Attachment into being one of the early hits for Shudder in 2023 and a highly recommended watch.
Attachment is available to stream on Shudder from 09/02.