Shiva Baby – TIFF Review

by Adam Sirdoreus

There’s universal anxiety when it comes to funerals, no matter how well you knew the person. There are expectations to uphold when it comes to how you carry yourself and the emotions that you show – and that stress can worsen when your family gets involved. Emma Seligman’s Shiva Baby takes all of the stress and anxieties I previously mentioned and twists and turns it into 80-something minutes of comedic gold that will be painfully relatable and hilarious for anyone who watches. 

A lot of people will recognize Rachel Sennott from her infamous Twitter/Instagram accounts, as she’s easily one of the funniest personalities online today. In Shiva Baby, she ultimately shines and carries the entire picture with charm and charisma for days. Sennott plays Danielle, a college student struggling to forge a path for the future or get an actual job. She can earn money by advertising herself as a Sugar Baby to older men looking for just that. Danielle often lies to her friends and family about how she makes a living. Still, she is confronted with her life choices at the gathering when she sees her newest Sugar Daddy Max (Danny Deferrari) and his wife (Diana Agron) talking to her family. 

While dealing with the questions of how Max knows her family, she has to deal with her overbearing parents and childhood friend, Maya (Molly Gordon), who she has a too complicated romantic history with. I’ll stop there when it comes to describing the story because part of the fun of Shiva Baby sees all of these story threads and anxieties play out in real-time. Seligman perfectly fits one nightmare-ish scenario into a hilarious and surprisingly insightful and touching 80-minute ride. 

My only real complaint with the film is that there are moments where it feels a bit too brief and restrained in its drama, and I feel as if it could’ve gone a few steps further to cement itself as a comedy classic. But there’s also a charm to how quick the film boldly flows, and how you have to hold onto every moment with the characters because you’re feeling as frantic and anxiety-driven as Danielle does. By the end, Shiva Baby touches on some subtle truths about societal expectations, but most importantly – it is somehow minute to minute funny, and that is truly something special. [B+]

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