Attachment (Shudder, NR)

Leah (Ellie Kendrick), a British Jewish academic doing field work in Denmark, and Maja (Josephine Park), a Danish actress reduced to doing kiddie shows in an elf costume, meet cute in a Copenhagen bookstore via unintentional collision. Leah returns to catch the end of the show, Maja asks her to go for a drink, and they hit it off immediately. In fact, they make just about the cutest couple ever, and it seems like we might be about to watch a charming lesbian romance.

Then things start to get weird. Maja awakes to find Leah staring at herself in the mirror, apparently due to an episode of sleepwalking. Is it coincidental that this occurrence was preceded by Leah getting a phone call from her mother? Once you meet Mom, you may think not, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Leah leaves to catch a flight to London, then returns to Maja’s flat because her heart says stay, and the feeling is mutual.  All goes well for a while, until Leah has a seizure, which was also preceded by, you guessed it, a phone call from Mom (in both cases, the calls go unanswered—make of that what you will).

When Leah returns to London, now sporting an impressive knee brace and walking with crutches (she was injured during the seizure), Maja accompanies her. There, she meets Leah’s odd, abrasive mother Chana (Sofie Gråbøl), who lives in the same building as Leah. Chana, a convert who takes her religion very seriously, seems determined to keep her daughter in a state of dependency and definitely doesn’t appreciate this new competition for her attention. In fact, Chana seems so peculiar and unpleasant and meddlesome that you wonder how Leah can stand living anywhere near her, but families are full of mysteries and this one is certainly no exception.

Maja, who is so unfamiliar with Jewish traditions that she cooks Leah bacon for breakfast, heads out in search of a sort of “Jewish Culture for Dummies” book, which brings her into contact with Leah’s bookseller uncle Lev (David Dencik). He doesn’t have anything to fill that bill but does provide gobs of exposition regarding Jewish traditions and folklore. That necklace Chana gave Maja, for instance? It’s meant to ward off demons, which seems like it might be a good thing, since strange stuff keep happening in Leah’s apartment. At the same time, most of these occurrences are ambiguous enough that you keep asking yourself, as Maja surely is, questions along the line of “Did I really hear that?” “Did I really see that?” and “Is this sinister, peculiar, or none of the above?”

Attachment is Gabriel Bier Gislason’s first feature film as a director, and I feel like I should both congratulate him for trying something ambitious and out of the ordinary, and also express my annoyance at this film’s lack of concern with maintaining any sort of plausibility. The plot turns out to rely explicitly on Jewish folklore, which is spelled out in the film’s final 30 minutes or so, but the explanation finally provided just isn’t all that interesting. It’s also annoying that in a film set deep within Jewish culture, we see things primarily through the eyes of a Gentile character. Still, Attachment does the standard horror tropes well, the romance is hot (Ellie Kendrick, whom you may remember from Game of Thrones and An Education, is an inspired choice—she’s adorably offbeat in a way that almost keeps you believing in the world of the film), and the interplay between plain old family drama and supernaturally-tinged horror is always fruitful ground for exploration. | Sarah Boslaugh

Attachment is available via streaming on Shudder.

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