At a Jewish funeral service with her parents, a college student runs into her sugar daddy.
‘Shiva Baby’ is a superb independent movie about a young Jewish woman who attends a shiva with her family, unwittingly bumping into a married man she’d been having an affair with. It’s a comedy of manners that thrives on the awkwardness this situation presents and for almost the entirety of the 78 minute runtime we’re in this small house with a group of characters at odds with one another. Like the best films of its type, its superbly observant of human behaviour and has some terrific writing to craft scenarios that pit characters against one another without feeling contrived.
The young woman at the centre of the movie is Danielle (Rachel Sennott), a bisexual college senior who is somewhat lacking in direction in life, and when we first meet her she’s just had sex with Max (Danny Deferrari), her ‘sugar daddy’ who she met on a website/app specifically for that purpose. Arriving at the shiva with her parents, she’s immediately put on edge by distant relatives comparing her unfavourably to her ex-girlfriend Maya (Molly Gordon), and this is only heightened when Max arrives, alongside a wife and newborn baby, previously unbeknownst to Danielle. The cast are all on the same comedic wavelength and I thought director Emma Seligman’s script provided a perfect platform to explore various themes about Jewish life and the pressures of modern life and expectation levels for a young adult. Sennott is great as the lead and I found her to be really relatable and quite funny actually, even as we recognise that she is behaving like a brat at times – a trait that the film wisely doesn’t shy away from.
‘Shiva Baby’ is a brilliantly observed coming of age comedy with a super ensemble casts and an original and intriguing premise, and I was a huge fan of it. It’s streaming on Mubi now, free for members!
Directed By: Emma Seligman
Starring: Rachel Sennott, Molly Gordon, Danny Deferrari, Polly Draper, Fred Melamed, Dianna Agron and Jackie Hoffman