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A Funny Family Affair: A TIFF Review of ‘Shiva Baby’

September 17, 2020Britany Murphy

Danielle is a 20-something-year-old student who is trying to get her life together. Feeling the pressure from her overbearing Jewish parents who want the best for her but who are also getting on her last nerves, Danielle can't imagine things being more chaotic. However, the different aspects of her personal life are about to collide in a way that she never thought possible.

It all unfolds during a shiva, one that both Danielle (Rachel Sennott) and her parents (Polly Draper and Fred Melamed) are attending. But when the older man Danielle has been seeing — who, as she soon learns, also happens to know her parents — and her ex-girlfriend (Molly Gordon) also show up, it sets the stage for one hilariously terrible afternoon. With her impeccable comedic timing, we watch as Sennott squirms away from conversation after awkward conversation. Whether it's about what she wants to do after graduating or if she's seeing a nice Jewish boy, Sennott makes sure that the audience sees every moment of unease she's feeling. The comical results don't end there, however, because Danielle's interactions with her parents are some of the best parts of the movie, making for some of the film's most laugh-out-loud moments.

An extremely witty comedy that will have you both laughing hysterically and writhing with discomfort, Emma Seligman's Shiva Baby is a love letter to youthfulness. It also shows how often a tight-knit family and community can be both a blessing and a bit of a curse — especially when everyone is always in your business.

Shiva Baby screens under the Discovery and TIFF Next Wave programmes at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 17 min.

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