‘Attachment’ Unveils Frightening Family Baggage During An Important Queer Love Story [Tribeca 2022 Review]
Gabriel Bier Gislason finds horror in the fascinating trenches of Orthodox Judaism.
All families are burdened with baggage, the only variable is the weight of the suitcase. Gabriel Bier Gislason’s heartbreaking debut tells a queer love story suffocated by one woman’s past, and her partner’s unshakable quest to hold on. Attachment is a horror romance that takes a firm grip on your heart and slowly squeezes. The fear here is complex, and the genre elements revolve around a relationship that will do anything to survive. Even in the face of unknowable darkness.
In Attachment, two young women fall madly in love after a meet-cute so charming, you’ll be completely and cleverly disarmed. Maja (Josephine Park) is a fledgling young actress who performs as an elf in front of small audiences of children to pay her bills. The film opens with Maja having a lovely chance encounter with a mysterious and beautiful academic named Leah (Ellie Kendrick); the relationship between these two is the film’s driving force. Maja and Leah quickly fall in love, but when Leah endures a particularly gruesome injury, she brings her new partner home to her frightening and stereotypically overbearing Jewish mother’s house. This is where darkness soon envelops, and the true tone of this experience becomes clear.
Folklore and Jewish mysticism are both rooted at the core of the narrative, anchoring the horror with stressful and intriguing momentum. Leah’s mother Chana is played impeccably by Sofie Gråbøl (The Killing, Nightwatch). Chana’s smothering influence is cruel, and it’s a challenge to watch her lay a toxic veil over a relationship in which we’ve become so immediately invested. Over the course of the second act, Chana’s dark overture becomes more and more interesting, layered in classical Jewish mother guilt and terrifying protectiveness. Chana’s own story is where the more traditional horror elements of the narrative find their course. She’s brooding, but in a way that’s difficult to fully decipher. Soon Maja uncovers compelling evidence that Chana is tampering with dark traditions that could tear her and Leah apart.
Attachment succeeds as a romance first and foremost. It gifts the horror genre an epic love tale that we’ve never seen before; it’s both exciting and important to behold. It’s impossible not to root for Leah and Maja, and as the stakes continue to rise, it becomes nearly unbearable to watch them suffer. You’ll quickly hate Chana, and Sofie Gråbøl is all the more fundamental for it. While Leah and Maja are where your eyes will always wander, the perils inflicted by Chana are essential to keep the genre elements alive and the stakes constantly rising.
While the love story is rewarding, the scares, on the other hand, are sparse and somewhat tepid. Gislason crafted a satisfying cinematic experience, but it left me wanting more darkness to outweigh the tender qualities of the film. The intimacy here works so well, that I believe more brutality would only help. With that said, the constant lingering stress hovering over the romantic centerpiece is a unique horror in its own right. The character dynamics are interesting and beautiful, so you won’t soon forget Leah, Maja, or Chana for a long while.
Ultimately, Gislason’s Attachment is an important queer love story with a cornucopia of complex horrors rooted in the fascinating trenches of Orthodox Judaism. The romance displayed is where this film succeeds the most, elevating it onto a unique perch rarely explored in the horror genre.
Gabriel Bier Gislason’s ‘Attachment’ tells an essential queer love story suffocated by one woman’s past, and her partner’s unshakable quest to hold on.