This will be one of many reviews during this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, to keep up with our latest coverage, click here.
Based on the 2018 short film of the same name, Shiva Baby is a feature length adaptation which takes that core story and builds upon it, resulting in a hilariously uncomfortable (more often than not) experience that is sure to give many Jewish viewers a few nightmares for its frighteningly accurate depiction of Jewish culture and tradition. Suffice it to say that the film and its subject matter will likely appeal more to Jewish viewers but that doesn’t mean that the film wasn’t without its moments. Guided by a sharp script and inventive direction from the writer and director of the original short film, Emma Seligman, certainly makes the most out of its indie budget in order to create something that rises above.
Shiva Baby tells the story of a young Jewish woman named Danielle (Sennott) who begrudgingly attends a funeral service with her diverse cast of eccentric cast of family members until the coincidental arrival of her sugar daddy, a man named Max (Deferrari), and of course his much younger wife Kim (Agron). What undoubtedly was an uncomfortable experience for Danielle, got increasingly more so which was only to our benefit as it spawned some hilarious awkward moments. Meanwhile, the impressive cinematography, framing the action as more of a psychological horror (which it kind of was), put a fresh twist on the story while accentuating the overall feeling of discomfort and dread.
The best part of Shiva Baby of course was Sennott’s courageous performance as Danielle. Despite the fate of the film being placed completely on her shoulders, she took that task in stride, guiding us along Danielle’s journey by delivering a likable and relatable performance that pulled viewers in to her complex range of feelings. While some will connect to her experiences more than others, she was compelling to watch nonetheless.
At the end of the day, Shiva Baby is a solid indie comedy whose appeal will be limited, however, those looking for a relatively quick watch will not be disappointed.
stills courtesy of TIFF
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