Film Review: The Big Sick (2017)

2017 in Cinema:

The Big Sick, 2017

Directed by: Michael Showalter

Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Adeel Akhtar, Anupam Kher


The Big Sick is a romantic comedy about an interracial couple, Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) and Emily (Zoe Kazan), and their coming together, before Emily suffers a potentially serious illness and is put into a medically induced coma. It is loosely based on the real life romance between Kumail Nanjiani (who plays himself) and his wife Emily V. Gordon.

On the face of it, it might seem to be a run-of-the-mill comedy, but The Big Sick has so much more going for it than its principle two characters and their relationship: Kumail never meets Emily’s parents, so in the hospital there’s an awkward moment between him and them, Kumail’s parents are constantly trying to arrange a marriage for him with Pakistani girls, and who object to Kumail seeing a white woman and Kumail’s dream of being a comedian (and the stick he gets for choosing that as an option over being a lawyer, as his parents want). The writing (which was done by the real-life Kumail and Emily) perfectly blends in so many storylines which intertwine together and centre around the relationship.

One of the more interesting things about this film is how we have this meeting and building of a relationship between Kumail and Emily for the first act of the film, before she’s put into a coma. After that we get another meeting and building of a relationship between Kumail and Emily’s parents. It’s nice to see him form two different bonds, and, as a result, really flushes out his character. Their relationship also comes across as authentic on the screen (which probably helps with the fact Kumail and Emily wrote it), and one of my favourite aspects of their relationship was the fact they never spoke about the interracial aspect (until Emily found out about the arranged marriages). To the characters in the film it wasn’t even an issue, which was nice. There’s also a beautiful moment at the end of the film which connects of their beginning and it’s written so well, and performed so well, and plotted so well that it genuinely is heart-warming to see.

There are a few moments which seem a bit off: Kumail and Emily’s first meeting there doesn’t seem to be that instant romance (there’s no flirting and what they speak about and how they speak comes across as awkward) and there’s a few too many jokes about terrorism (at least three; I get that he’s from Pakistan and may suffer from that abuse but having three jokes on racism seemed one too many). And I was also curious why they revealed Emily was married but still had her surname from birth; a little quick mention of her changing her name back, or saying that she never changed it at marriage would have helped. But they are a few minor issues from an otherwise well-put-together film.

A genuinely nice romantic comedy with so much more going for it makes this film stand out among a crowded genre. It’s not about the struggle of them falling in love, it’s about the struggle of her illness, which brings everyone together and really evolves the characters from what we see at the start. Everyone’s acting is perfect; they all convey the right emotions at the right time, and the end scene is wonderful. A really enjoyable film.


Plot: * * * *     Acting: * * * *     Writing: * * * * *     Presentation: * * *

Overall Rating: * * * *


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