Mayim Bialik writes and directs AS THEY MADE US, which arrives soon via Quiver Distribution.
As They Made Us follows Abigail (Agron), a divorced mother of two, who is struggling to find sanity in her dysfunctional family as she attempts to cultivate new love. Her father, Eugene (Hoffman), has a degenerative condition that he and his wife, Barbara (Bergen), refuse to accept. Her brother Nathan (Helberg) has been estranged from the family for decades. A self-appointed fixer, Abigail attempts to mend her complicated family before it’s too late.
Moving between present-day and flashbacks to a chaotic and confusing childhood, Abigail juggles parenting her young sons with her annoyingly competent ex-husband Peter (Weber) and trying to land a cover story at the news magazine she works for. Barbara barely gives Abigail a moment of peace, calling her to clean up messes every time Eugene falls or when a nurse sneaks him weed gummy bears against her wishes. Barbara’s intrusiveness proves amusing to Abigail’s crush, her landscaper Jay (Chu Cary), but it’s yet another part of Abigail’s life which she finds unable to disentangle her family’s insanity.
Navigating Eugene’s degenerative condition and Barbara’s manic hostility is alternately hilarious and heartbreakingly cringe-worthy. Family struggles range from fights over birthday cake to wheelchair mechanical snafus to Barbara’s bizarre behavior at doctor’s appointments. Things come to a head when Nathan agrees to visit Eugene, but only if Barbara isn’t present. Barbara begrudgingly agrees to let them have their reunion, and Nathan and Eugene’s visit is bittersweet. However, Barbara cannot resist spoiling Abigail’s joy, leaving Abigail to once again choose between her comfort and that of her mother. Eugene’s health worsens and with his passing, Nathan and Abigail begin to repair their relationship and, in turn, their family.
TIFF ’20 sensation SHIVA BABY finally is on its way to us this April! See the new Trailer and release date below.
A near college graduate, Danielle, gets paid by her sugar daddy and rushes to meet her neurotic parents at a family shiva. Upon arrival, she is accosted by various estranged relatives about her appearance and lack of post-grad plans, while her confident ex-girlfriend, Maya, is applauded by everyone for getting into law school. Danielle’s day takes an unexpected turn when her sugar daddy, Max, arrives at the shiva with his accomplished wife, Kim, and crying baby. As the day unfolds, Danielle struggles to keep up different versions of herself, fend off pressures from her family and confront her insecurities without completely losing it.
See the Trailer:
Pacific Northwest Pictures release SHIVA BABY On-Demand and Digital on Friday April 2nd, 2021.
Perennial undergrad student Dani (Rachel Sennot) is at a crossroads in her life. She doesn’t know what to do with her career and she’s in a money-exchange relationship with an older man Max (Danny Deferrari). When her parents haul her to a Shiva (a Jewish mourning event), her past, present and future converge in one house. Surprisingly, she encounters her ex Maya (Molly Gordon) and current flame Max. At once, she is hounded by questions from extended family and friends at the affair. As the pressure surmounts, Dani’s anxiety reaches a breaking point.
It’s hard to believe Shiva Baby is a first-time Feature. Writer-Director Emma Seligman navigates her story with the precision and confidence of a seasoned Filmmaker. She has a clear vision and executes it masterfully. Her Script includes heavy themes of inner-turmoil laced with Comedy, making can make this tightrope to walk. Seligman manages to balance herself steadily.
Another feat Seligman achieves is giving this Dramedy a very distinct feel. She borrows a bit from the Horror genre to heighten Dani’s anxiety. The disquieting Score by Ariel Marx could easily have been used in a Horror film, yet it triumphs in this heartfelt Coming-of-Age story. Not only does it parallel the trepidation of the protagonist, but instills great tension in its audience.
There are moments where Seligman’s whip-smart dialogue is delivered by multiple characters in succession, overpowering us as we immerse ourselves in Dani’s building unease. As a result, we feel both a mix of empathy and anxiousness. Cinematographer Maria Rusche adds to the escalating tension with close-up shots that induce a claustrophobic feeling. This is further aided by the stellar, concise editing by Hanna Park, who for example, makes quick jumps between dialogue, close-up shots and the ear-piercing cries of a baby.
At the heart of Shiva Baby is its endearingly-flawed characters. Seligman manages to get us invested in each character because she gives the same detailed attention to her one-line characters as she does Dani. Our protragonist is placed in a series of cringe-worthy situations which many of us relate to. Refreshingly, she’s never pigeon-holed and is perfectly brought to life by the outstanding performance from Sennot.
As the lead, Sennot commands the screen and encapsulates the essence of Dani – her anxiety, her secretiveness and her fire. However wrong Dani’s actions are, we sympathize with her because Sennot makes it hard not to. She also excels at understanding the power-dynamics within each scene in Seligman’s Script. Sennot is surrounded by an immensely-talented Ensemble. Gordon is delightful as the still-in-love ex. Polly Draper and Fred Melamed are superb as Dani’s supportive, yet overbearing parents. And Dianna Agron is just captivating as a woman slowly learning of her husband’s deceit.
Overall, Shiva Baby is a hilarious, heartfelt Film about the surmounting pressures of family expectations and growing up. At its core are its stellar performances and expert filmmaking all around.
Shiva Baby screens at TIFF:
Thu, Sep 10
Online at Bell Digital Cinema
Streaming in Canada Available from: