The Movie Waffler Tribeca 2022 Review - ATTACHMENT | The Movie Waffler

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Tribeca 2022 Review - ATTACHMENT

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A woman suspects her lover's mother of using black magic against her.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Gabriel Bier Gislason

Starring: Josephine Park, Ellie Kendrick, Sofie Gråbøl, David Dencik

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Jewish mysticism and Jewish witticism make for a winning combo in writer/director Gabriel Bier Gislason's (son of Danish filmmaking royalty Susanne Bier) feature debut Attachment. While Gislason employs a familiar horror trope – the possessed young woman – and a well-worn comedy cliché – the overbearing Jewish mother – he mixes the two in a way we've never seen before, resulting in a movie that feels wholly original.

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Her acting career having gone down the drain, Maja (Toni Collette lookalike Josephine Park) finds herself reduced to performing as her once popular TV clown character for infants in Danish libraries. During one such performance she has a meet cute with Londoner Leah (Ellie Kendrick), which leads to the two falling in love and lust over an afternoon and evening of drinking in Maja's apartment. Leah is set to return to London the following morning, but when she injures her ankle during a strange spasm, Maja decides to accompany her to the English capital.


There the very blonde Maja finds herself sticking out like a sore thumb in the Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood Leah calls home. Leah lives in the same house as her overbearing mother Chana (Sofie Gråbøl), who seems to take a dislike to Maja despite her own Danish origins. Chana displays some odd behaviour, like feeding her daughter chicken soup but not allowing Maja to have so much as a spoonful, insisting Maja wear an amulet to ward off evil, and making sure no books are left open in case a demon might read the pages and gain some knowledge.

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Like Maja, the viewer is left to question the ambiguous nature of Chana's disregard for her daughter's new lover. It could simply be homophobia, but Leah insists her mother is fine with her sexuality. Perhaps it's because Maja isn't Jewish, but Leah claims her mother's religion is largely a front to allow her to fit in with the community she married into. As the narrative progresses, we begin to realise Chana feels as much of an outsider in this world as Maja. The two begin to bond in that very Danish way, over a few bottles of beer, but Chana still seems to have it in for Maja, who befriends Leah's uncle Lev (David Dencik), the owner of a local bookshop and something of an expert on Jewish mysticism.


Over the last decade several horror movies have adopted Jewish folklore, particularly the dybbuk, a malevolent spirit that takes possession of a human for its own gain. None have taken such a practical, everyday approach to the lore as Attachment, which plays its supernatural drama out in the mundane surrounds of suburban London. This makes it all the more involving however, as its characters feel like real people even if they're variations on stock figures like the exorcist, the possessed girl, the worried lover and the creepy matriarch.

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What's particularly striking about the structure of Attachment is how all four of its central characters might justifiably consider themselves the central protagonist. We're never quite sure who the real victim of the story is, or who's the antagonist, as this is a complex tale of humans trying to do their best for one another, even if it's in a manner that seems counterproductive to others. Gislason also cleverly employs language to add to the paranoia felt by various characters. Maja feels uncomfortable when Chana and Lev speak Yiddish, and Leah feels similarly excluded when Maja and Chana speak in their native Danish. Everyone involved seems to be secretly conspiring, but perhaps not with entirely sinister motives.

When we get to the climax, the tropes of exorcism movies feel a little too familiar, but the movie has fun with this idea that regardless of religion and culture, we're all afraid of the same things. In one of the more comic moments, Lev explains the concept of the dybbuck to Leah, only to grow frustrated when she compares it to a ghost. "No, it's a dybbuk!" he insists. Later, in another knowing genre-jibe, he bemoans the inconvenience of the remote area Maja picks for a secret rendezvous. The folklore aspects of Attachment may be universal, but its wit is distinctively Jewish.



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