Sometimes, a movie bites off more than it can chew by trying to be too many things at once. Writer and director Gabriel Bier Gislason’s film Attachment (2022) is listed at Tribeca as a “Horror, Comedy, LGBTQIA, Romance, Mystery”, and it may seem that’s far too many things to juggle. However, Gislason manages to make this film all of those things, and educate the audience about Jewish folklore. The characters in this film are well written, and the story is strong – making for one enjoyable watch.
Maja (Josephine Park) literally bumps into Leah (Ellie Kendrick) while rushing to reprise her role as an Elf Princess to read a book to children in an almost too-cliche way. Their romance is far from ordinary as they quickly fall for each other, and things seem great – until Leah suffers a seizure and a subsequent debilitating leg injury from it. Maja takes a chance on love and goes back to Leah’s home in the Hasidic neighborhood of Stamford Hill, London. Her downstairs neighbor is Chana, Leah’s slightly overbearing mother, who is overjoyed to have her daughter back home. Maja tries to win Chana’s approval, but Chana seems to want nothing to do with her, and soon Maja starts to suspect Chana is responsible for many odd things happening in the building.
So – listed as one of the elements this film is trying to juggle – there is so much humor in this dark tale. The general happy moments feel so human, and the natural charm between Maja and Leah allows for some joyous laughter. However, it’s Leah’s uncle, played by David Dencik, that really had me laughing. He is the owner of a specialty book store that seems to deal with some of the darker elements of Jewish folklore. While he is there to give both Maja and the audience information necessary to understand the situation, he is also there to bring a lot of levity to the story. At one point, he hands Maja some snacks, and she realizes she is allergic to them and tosses them on the ground in concern. His reaction to her is so funny and natural, as he is apologetic – but also notes she didn’t need to throw them on the ground.
This film can’t just be funny, of course, as it is touted as a horror film. The tension and the mysticism that is at the heart of the film really help to deliver on that promise. Chana and Leah both are tasked with bringing some of the creepiness to scenes and do so quite easily. Maja is kept at a distance for a while but she eventually sneaks in during a massage that Chana is giving Leah. It’s during the day, and the scene is lit quite brightly – but the actions and the chanting shown through Maja’s perspective make it creepy. Moments like this are in abundance, while also never feeling like too much.
Attachment is a film I highly recommend. I found the story extremely compelling, and I learned many things I didn’t know. There were moments where I truly laughed quite a bit, and I was also very invested in the relationship with all the characters. Each is dynamic and has importance to the movie as a whole. Attachment works as an allegory, which is often the best kind of horror, but also on its surface. This movie earns the Must See rating and is one of the highlights of the festival so far.