Life & Culture

Review: Shiva Baby

This impressive debut is set at a family shiva


In this impressive debut feature, young Jewish Canadian writer-director Emma Seligman presents a fresh, funny and robustly-acted queer comedy.

Adapted from Seligman’s 2018 short film of the same name, Shiva Baby has the familiarity of some of Woody Allen’s most popular offerings with its focus on neurosis, complex relationship and claustrophobic Jewish familial settings.

When she is dragged by her parents (Fred Melamed and Polly Draper) to attend a shiva, college senior Danielle is shocked when she realises that her ex girlfriend Maya (Molly Gordon) and current sugar daddy Max (Danny Deferrari) are both in attendance.

Things spiral out of control when Max’s non-Jewish wife (Glee’s Diana Agron) turns up with the couple’s baby in tow — a faux pas which doesn’t go unnoticed.

Caught between trying to avoid both lovers and justifying the lies she told each of them, Danielle feels suffocated by everyone around her and confused by her feelings towards Maya and Max.

Seligman’s film feels like 77 minutes spent in a pressure cooker that could blow any moment. She presents a brilliantly devised story which is often elevated by Ariel Max’s hectic score.

There are hints of early Allen of course, but the film to me has more in common with the (also Jewish) Safdi brothers’ (Good Time, Uncut Gems) particular blend of tense and chaotic narratives.

Seligman has given us an impressively grown-up and commendably well-acted comedy full of brilliant twists and turns and populated with some hilariously erratic and neurosis-driven characters.

And if you needed one more reason to give this a go, the film also features another tour de force from the always brilliant Fred Melamed (A Serious Man, Hail, Caesar!) who is never known for doing things by halves.

All in all, Shiva Baby is a truly promising debut from a very talented young filmmaker. Emma Seligman is a name to watch.

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