Shiva Baby

Dir. Emma Seligman | 77 min
Narrative USA 2020

Twenty-something Danielle (Rachel Sennot) is a perennial student who’s been lying to her supportive but overbearing parents about her faltering academic career. Then again, she has a lot of secrets she’s keeping, including her relationship with Max, an older man who also gives her money.

Hauled off to a shiva by her parents, she’s mortified to encounter her embittered ex Maya (Molly Gordon, Booksmart), followed by other people who make things increasingly more awkward for Danielle. Much to her chagrin, she finds out that many of them have secrets of their own.

Shiva Baby is a caustically affectionate comedy about tightly knit families and communities and the comfort and anguish they’re often responsible for. Seligman expertly structures the film as Danielle lurches from one potentially catastrophic encounter to another—each one threatening to expose her multiple fabrications—while navigating spilled drinks, wailing babies, and an endless string of friends and relatives anxious to give Danielle advice. Seligman’s stellar ensemble cast, led by Sennott and including Polly Draper and Fred Melamed, is spot-on.

-Note adapted from the Toronto International Film Festival

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