“Oh, you guys are at the Holocaust museum. You look so… happy!”Danielle
Writer/director Emma Seligman’s debut film started out as a short of the same name, in which a college student runs into her sugar daddy whilst with her parents at a Jewish funeral. Although now running to feature length, Shiva Baby is set almost entirely within a single house as the family sit shiva, the confined space working to its benefit. Amusing and excruciating in equal measure, Seligman excels at crafting the discomfort and claustrophobia that Danielle feels when surrounded by family, through the perception that she is underachieving as well as through the secrets she is harbouring. This fishbowl will feel immediately familiar to anyone who grew up with close-knit extended family networks. Danielle lies constantly despite being terrible at it, so failure is expected even as we empathise with Rachel Sennott’s performance, grounded in lack of self-confidence. The camerawork reflects this, often shifting between the current conversation and where Danielle’s distracted attention is focused. Aided by strong supporting cast, Shiva Baby is a witty and entertaining debut, provided that you can enjoy the inherent humour in awkward interaction.