Second day back working on this project, and I am endeavoring to make this stick once again. Having missed most of the last two months, I feel very behind in watching new releases, so that is what I am going to be focusing on these next few weeks. And while I doubt that I will catch up with Black Widow or The Suicide Squad, there are plenty of other recent releases that I have on my list.
Shiva Baby (2021, Dir. Emma Seligman)
If severe social anxiety were a movie, it would be the wonderful debut by Emma Seligman Shiva Baby. Outside of a short prologue, the entire film takes place in a house during a Shiva for someone the protagonist Danielle (Rachel Sennott) doesn’t even know. Seligman uses the heightened setting to create a film which is at times utterly terrifying.
Danielle is a college senior who gets by with a financial help from her parents and her sugar daddy, a fact which she keeps secret from everyone and accredits this money to babysitting. This insecurity with where she is in life creates the perfect breeding ground for anxieties to rise as countless extended family members pester her with the same questions ad infinitum. The film hinges on the performance of the relatively new actress Sennott, and she delivers on the ask in spades. Each additional stressor compounds Danielle’s anxiety, and Sennott captures the nuanced changes miraculously.
As good as the acting and direction are in Shiva Baby, the unsung hero of the film is composer Ariel Marx. The squeaking strings that highlight the musical moments help create the tension that is the highlight of the film. The pair of Seligman and Marx create a uniquely memorable depiction of the anxiety and insecurities that can only be brought out through interactions with one’s family.