Shiva baby plays like a mid-stage episode of the late TV series girl. It has the same smack and cross-eyed nervousness of the show about young women finding their way around sex, love, and family, but it doesn’t quite have the punch or boast that a story would possess in its prime.
Emma Seligman writes and directs this comedy-drama from an Emma Seligman short film about a student named Danielle (Rachel Sennott, who starred in the short film Danielle) who meets her sugar-married father while attending a funeral with her parents.
It’s an amusing premise, to say the least, and an amusing, if light, film that seems to stretch over its compassionate 77-minute runtime.
Sennott is brilliant in the lead role, balances skillfully, plays with the complexities of her character and alternates between them. She’s young and naive, but also a woman with sexual prowess, and also a daughter, and just a person like any other, and we all know we’ll run into our sugar daddy at some point at a wedding, baseball game, or work event, or, heaven help us have a funeral. It’s clear why Seligman stayed with Sennott from the short film, as the largely unknown actress wears the film.
Seligman delivers lots of little moments, and if little moments are your thing, great. The parts don’t completely add up, however, which is frustrating as you can see how close it is to everything turning into a finely tuned, hellishly uncomfortable comedy. Instead, Shiva baby nails the uncomfortable parts – the final scene, delivered with such simplicity, but embodies how much more the movie should have felt – but sniff the humor and make you wonder if those 77 minutes were really worth it.
Shiva baby comes closer, and for some that will be more than enough, but there isn’t enough here to get out of the coffin.
Rating by Erik Samdahl, unless otherwise stated.