Emma Seligman’s ‘Shiva Baby’ Starring Rachel Sennott Full Review

Shiva Baby, Emma Seligman's feature directorial debut, is based on Seligman's 2018 short film of the same name. Danielle (Rachel Sennott

Shiva Baby, Emma Seligman’s feature directorial debut, is based on Seligman’s 2018 short film of the same name. Danielle (Rachel Sennott), a young bisexual Jewish woman with a relatively aimless life, is the centerpiece of the film. She goes a shiva with her parents, Debbie (Polly Draper) and Joel (Fred Melamed), but has awkward interactions with family acquaintances, as well as her sugar daddy, Max (Danny Deferrari), and her ex-girlfriend, Maya (Molly Gordon).

Shiva Baby, Emma Seligman's feature directorial debut, is based on Seligman's 2018 short film of the same name. Danielle (Rachel Sennott

We can tell right away that Danielle does not want to be at the shiva. Her rising uneasiness arises from a mixture of humiliation and the desire to keep her personal life – particularly her “sugaring” life – hidden from her noisy parents. Her caustic mother and flaky father, though being openly bisexual, do not fully understand their daughter and, worse, do not support her life choices among their judgmental friends and relatives. As a result, Danielle has been subjected to a barrage of intrusive and scathing comments about her future, weight, and relationships. As we watch the shiva unfold virtually in real-time, these gradually chip away at her emotional defenses.

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The presence of her ex-girlfriend and sugar daddy, on the other hand, adds to the embarrassment. Maya is enraged by the lack of post-breakup communication and doesn’t hesitate to attack Danielle with sarcastic words, despite the fact that she is the only one who actually interacts with her. Meanwhile, Max tries to keep his relationship with Danielle, as well as some topless selfies, hidden from Danielle’s parents and his wife, Kim (Dianna Agron). Given that Danielle’s sexuality appears to be the one thing that empowers her, it’s clear that her carefree, modern lifestyle is more of a fault than a weapon.

Sonnett’s performance as Danielle, which she reprised from the short film, exudes confidence and natural talent in front of the camera. She also has a fantastic relationship with Draper and Melamed, who as Danielle’s parents, deftly combine awkwardness with humour in their performances. Deferrari and Gordon add to the emotional complexity, while Agron’s delicate portrayal as the icy, quietly speaking Kim serves as a perfect counterbalance for Danielle’s chaos. Shiva Baby is a fantastic debut movie for Seligman, made even better by Sonnett’s hypnotic performance.

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Shiva Baby will be released in UK theatres on June 9th and on MUBI UK on June 11th.

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