The film was directed by Emma Seligman, based on her short film of the same name. At a Jewish funeral service with her extended family, college student Danielle runs into her sugar daddy, his family and her ex-lover. Danielle’s fatal mistake was riding to the gathering with her parents. Always have an escape plan when you go to a family gathering. It may sound tempting to save on gas and ride with your folks, but you’ll find yourself trapped in an unending hell if you’re not careful. All that to say, if A Serious Man and Uncut Gems had a baby out of wedlock, it would be Shiva Baby. The only difference is this movie is kind enough to only be slightly over an hour in length. I honestly don’t know if I could have taken anymore than that.
The film takes place almost entirely inside the very cramped house of one of the immediate family members. The cinematography is tight, close-up and claustrophobic. The musical score compliments the filmmaking with a pulsing beat that continual ramps up your anxiety. While the storytelling seems both cultural and personal, the film is still incredibly relatable. Danielle is very relatable, though not entirely sympathetic. It’s a film about the lies we tell and faces we put on for our family and, in the end, about the people that see past all those lies and love us for the true broken, sad, confused human being that we really are. It’s just a sweaty, nerve wracking journey through hell to get to that surprisingly sweet conclusion.