Shiva Baby is a darkly comedic coming-of-age story about a college student named Danielle who is attending a family Shiva. Things turn from bad to worse as she is not only faced with her ex-girlfriend who outshines her, but her current sugar daddy and his apparently existent wife and daughter. With a witty script, tense atmospheres and noteworthy performances, Shiva Baby is a release to pay attention to.
Written by Becca Johnson
For a directorial debut, Shiva Baby is nothing short of exceptional. The script has a perfect tonal balance of dark witty humour and anxiety-inducing tension and awkwardness. One minute the script will provoke you to laugh, and the next you'll be tensing up, both elements achieving their desired effect. The movie has a surprisingly short run-time of 77 mins, yet every second is utilised well and adds to the overall plot. Writer/Director Emma Seligman has definitely proved that she is a talent to keep an eye on.
Shiva Baby also boasts some terrific performances. Rachel Sennott seems a perfect casting choice for our lead character Danielle, who is thrust into many awkward situations one after the other. Her line delivery and mannerisms match the tone of the movie flawlessly, showing the audience that during each encounter she is getting closer and closer to exploding. Molly Gordon (Booksmart) was also impressive as Danielle's ex-girlfriend Maya, who is frequently applauded in front of Danielle and made to appear much more successful and put together. Gordon was a scene stealer, and the scenes with Sennott and herself interacting were the movies highlights.
At times, Shiva Baby played out much like a thriller. The tension builds after each scene and interaction, feeling extremely chaotic and leading to what is expected to be an angst-filled climax. Both the mannerisms of the characters and the chilling score pair together to create an extremely stressful atmosphere, one that is hard to turn away from. It does well to capture the anxieties of family gatherings that many can relate to, such as being questioned on your career prospects and love life and frequently being compared to more successful family members. On the flip-side, the dark comedy works exceptionally well, not quite taking on a laugh-out-loud approach yet allowing the audience a little breather and to have some fun. The humour won't be for everyone, but those who have an affinity for dark comedy will find much enjoyment.
Shiva Baby was an easily digestible, awkward and hilarious quick watch with a relatable lead character, plenty of stressful moments and a tense atmosphere that even horror movies struggle to replicate so successfully. It introduces the film industry to some promising new talent, including director Emma Seligman and lead Rachel Sennott, and reminds us of actors who deserve to be seen more, such as Molly Gordon and Dianna Agron. Every element from the script to the score come together to create an unforgettably wild ride, one that will make its average audience member say 'uh-oh' approximately once every five minutes yet feel completely sucked in from the get-go.