Slow burn thriller, short on scares, but deep in story and excitement
From director Gabriel Bier Gislason, Attachment is a psychological thriller that focuses on two main heroines and their journey to find happiness together. Maja and Leah meet at the most coincidental of places but seem to kindle a burning flame for each other from the onset. The set-up for these two characters is inconsequential as Gislason aims to move past this meeting with relative swiftness and ease, yet feels this is a critical development of character to detail this early stage of the relationship. The chance encounter sets the stage for the two to commit to each other enough to establish a setting that would encompass the characters in an environment that would not allow for an easy escape. Let me explain.
As Leah suffers from a mysterious seizure and has work commitments back home in England, the choice for our protagonists is to move together from Denmark to London essentially forcing Maja to move into the flat shared with Leah’s overbearing mother Chana. At first, viewers are led to believe that Chana may not be accepting of Leah’s lesbian relationship with Maja, as the reception Maja receives is cold and unwelcoming. The small sub-lot of Chana’s desire to fit into the predominantly Jewish neighborhood is introduced. With a small back story of Leah’s father and the push to stay in the area after he left, we find this back story is misleading to the overall plot and theme of the movie. Yet, highly effective as the characters are able to become full-immersed in their behaviors and identities. This pushback Maja receives forces her to seek acceptance by educating herself in the Jewish faith. Leading her to Lev, who by sheer coincidence, and yet another subplot-driving element, is related to Leah and Chana by marriage. Lev, the owner of a Jewish religious bookstore leads Maja into the Kabbalah, the demons of the Jewish faith. And here we are introduced, ever so subtly to the Dybbuk.
At this point, it is imperative to reveal no more of the main plot, as I aim to keep my reviews spoiler-free. As these characters intermingle, and tensions rise, however, the story plays out with more than any of these characters plan. The slow burn to set this narrative eventually comes full circle, and those like myself who become fully invested in these characters are greatly relieved when the plot twists and we understand the point of the build-up.
Throughout Attachment, I am wondering why this movie is a Shudder Original, and why this is deemed a horror movie. No, I would not consider Attachment a horror movie in the traditional sense, even as it plays on many classic archetypes of more in-your-face demon lore flicks, yet it does possess that foreboding presence that builds anticipation and tension throughout the movie. I feel the ending left plenty of room for this conventional horror to explode on the screen but with great restraint, Gabriel Bier Gislason feels the tension is best at the level it is and offers no great sensational or spectacular finale. At first, I felt this was a missed opportunity, yet after letting Attachment sit with me for a while, it really feels right. And I thank Gabriel Bier Gislason for the restraint he showed in giving us a more pure and tidy resolution to the plot. This also helped validate the long runtime and the slow burn build-up of these characters.
Attachment, although not a classic horror by any stretch, is still filled with tension and suspense. A movie that demands attention and commitment from the viewer as the pay-off is substantial and rewarding for film geeks like myself. Word of note, watch with the subtitles on. The spoken language throughout Attachment switches from English, Danish, and Hebrew with ease and the thick accents of the cast make the transition difficult to catch.
Rating 7/10 for:
- Great character development
- Tension building settings
- Extraordinary acting performances from Ellie Kendrick (Leah), Josephine Park (Maja), and David Dencik (Lev)
- Special mention to Sofie Gråbøl for her role as Chana, my nod for an Academy award performance
- The film touches on Jewish folklore, yet falls short of doing any sort of justice to the subject by focusing on one demon
- Short on scares, thrills, or any uneasy fear
- The ending seemed rushed and suffers from missed opportunities
- Not a movie many would watch more than once
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