Shiva Baby directed by Emma Seligman is a satirical comedy film made in an Independent space. Mostly shot indoors, inside a house. The narrative’s prominent support system is its dialogues that make social commentary.
‘Shiva Baby’ Summary
Shiva Baby spotlights a conflicted teenager, Danielle (Rachel Sennott) who is in her senior years. To support herself financially, Danielle mingles with a sugar daddy, an intimacy in exchange for money.
Danielle finds herself in a claustrophobic environment as she attends a “shiva”, a term used for mourning in Judaism. Surrounded by a dysfunctional family, the environment amplifies Danielle’s anxiety. Each member of the shiva is interested in her career, her sudden weight loss, and most importantly her love life. Though things get pretty screwed up when Danielle’s sugar daddy, Max arrives at shiva with his extremely beautiful wife and a baby.
Danielle had no knowledge about Max’s marriage or the baby, and this sudden blow heightens her anxiety. Her relationship with Max is razed as well, but in the end, she finds something to cherish.
Major Spoilers Ahead
‘Shiva Baby’ Ending Explained
To find reasons for Danielle’s action is to ponder into an abyss. A teenage mind is a conflicted mind that processes millions of thoughts each second. To justify why they react a certain way is like getting into hardcore psychology of a convoluted teenage mind. Hence sparing you of all that, Danielle was just looking for validation, affection, and financial support, a combination she found in Max.
However, when she saw Max with his wife and baby, she was baffled. She tries sexual ways to gain his attention. However, Max doesn’t take the bait and that disappoints Danielle further. A casual conversation leading to sexual tension and affection between Danielle and her high school girlfriend Maya sparks a new beginning. Maya learns about Danielle’s sugar baby business through her phone but finally accepts her. Danielle adored Maya for a long time, and this liking is also hinted at the beginning of the film when Danielle’s mother, Debbie observes Maya talking with Danielle. Debbie warns Danielle to get into no “funny business” with Maya, hinting she already knows about Danielle’s feelings for Maya.
In the end, Danielle and Maya are in the back seat of Danielle’s father’s van. The van is comically stuffed with an old relative, Danielle’s parents, Max, and his family along with Danielle and Maya. In the midst of the chaos, Maya holds Danielle’s hands with affection and depicting acceptance. Max might have left Danielle but her girlfriend Maya is still there for her.
The dialogues and the dysfunctional setup are Shiva Baby’s stronghold. A claustrophobic teenager trapped inside a conservative society. Some Jewish references remind you of Woody Allen’s style of filmmaking who has crafted a number of premises around Jewish conservatism.
However, for a foreign audience, the premise can be alien, and thus they can miss the whole set-up. Personally, except for the last van sequence, I didn’t find any of the sequences funny enough. The film becomes very dull and repetitive at times. It keeps revolving around the same conflict and the new drama is injected very slowly.
The lead actress, Rachel Sennott playing Danielle is bewitching. Her performance lures you. And the brilliant direction by the first-time director Emma Seligman is commendable. I am sure she is going to enchant the audience with her future films.
Shiva Baby is 2021 Comedy Drama film. It is available for Video on Demand.
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