A trashy treat coated in a high-art gloss, “The Attachment Diaries” gleefully kneads melodrama, noir, horror and sexual perversion into a pathological romance between two deeply damaged women.
The setting is 1970s Argentina, where a rain-soaked, apparently destitute Carla (Jimena Anganuzzi) arrives at the home of Irina (Lola Berthet), a severe gynecologist. Carla, claiming to have been gang-raped, is seeking an illegal abortion (her second, as it turns out), but her pregnancy is too far along. Instead, Irina offers to shelter Carla until the birth, then sell the child to a wealthy couple. Irina, it seems, has more than one lucrative side hustle; she also has a Ph.D. in chemistry, which will serve the women well when their pathologies hit the fan and the bodies hit the floor.
Defined by a near-tactile tension between the profligacies of the script (by the director, Valentín Javier Diment) and the coolly reserved elegance of Claudio Beiza’s cinematography, “The Attachment Diaries” takes its excesses so seriously that it’s impossible not to laugh. As the women’s twisted histories and sick behaviors are slowly revealed — Carla, for instance, performs dark experiments in decoupage, while Irina excels at dismemberment — Diment flirts with farce. The film’s taproot, however, slurps insistently from a deep reservoir of misandry and rape trauma, commonalities that wrap the women in a cocoon of shared pain.
At once lugubrious and nutty, depressing and daring, “The Attachment Diaries” unfolds, for the first hour or so, in the softest black and white. Then, just past the midpoint, the screen floods with a rich, golden light, timed to coincide with Irina’s first experience of sexual release. Psychotic killer and star-crossed lover have just become one and the same.
The Attachment Diaries
Not rated. In Spanish, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 42 minutes. In theaters.