Shiva Baby Film Review

Emma Seligman’s short but sweet black comedy may have had its release delayed due to the pandemic, but the delay has in no way dampened its well-earned critical success.

The film tells the story of a young Jewish woman, Danielle, attending a shiva with her parents, with surprise guests including her secret sugar daddy, plus his wife and child, as well as her ex-girlfriend. The film follows our lead’s pinball style journey, bouncing around the party and colliding with its colourful cast of characters; all the while the possible uncovering of her sugar daddy relationship with the husband hangs over her, ready to drop at any minute.

What makes the film special is the horror-style elements overlaid over the comedy and drama. You’ve got a stripped back, menacing score, combined with claustrophobic cinematography to really ramp up the tension, building and building as we reach what we have to believe must be the climax of the drama that has slowly been unveiling itself. On top of this, the director manages to turn a relatively small and quiet wake setting into a sprawling mass of chaos, waiting to spill over.

There’s great performances from the cast, bringing a realistic, documentary-style feel to the proceedings, especially with perfect small cameos from the various attendees who wander in and out of the film during the 78 minutes. Rachel Sennott as Danielle is great, imbuing the character’s aimlessness, while Molly Gordon as her ex-girlfriend Maya brings out the warmth of a harsh character well. Also big shout-outs have to go to Fred Melamed and Polly Draper as Danielle’s parents, who play off against each other with brilliant comic timing.

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