B Coming of age drama

Written & Directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari

You have to adjust yourself to the slow pace of Athina Rachel Tsangari’s story of a young woman simultaneously facing her budding sexuality (at the rather late age of 23) and her father’s mortality. The static and low-key opening scene of two women kissing in the most awkward way possible sets the tone: Be patient, and you’ll be rewarded with the acquaintance of a few unique individuals, as well as some genuine and human laughs.

In fact, Attenberg has the funniest sex scene i have ever seen—and it’s entirely character-driven. As well as being funny, its poignant, sweet, and innocent. It’s also surprisingly graphic (not quite hardcore) and surprisingly erotic.

Marina (Ariane Labe) is 23, a virgin, and living with her sick father. She’s ambivalent attenburg_thumb[1] about sex, and disapproving. She uses the word slut to describe her best friend Bella (Evangelia Rando). When her father admits that he has not been celibate since her mother died, she’s disappointed.

Marina loves animal documentaries—especially those starring celebrity naturalist David  Attenborough. The film’s title comes from Bella’s mocking mispronunciation of the name. She also loves to imitate the animals, by herself, with Bella,or with her father, with whom she’s very muich dependent on emotionally. The two young women also love to do these bizarre and rather silly dance-like walks together.

But she still lives with her father, is scared of other men, and doesn’t want to detach herself. She has some growing up to do.

I saw Attenberg at the 2011 San Francisco International Film Festival.