THE SHORT REVIEW: The Big Sick is well-written and equally well-performed, with the perfect mixture of comedy and drama. It benefits hugely from being grounded in reality and the cast is nothing short of fantastic.
[SPOILERS AHEAD… you’ve been warned]
All-in-all, 2017 is turning out to be a fantastic year for movies. Films like Get Out and Wonder Woman have tried, and succeeded in my opinion, to provide a somewhat hopeful outlook on the future of what viewers can expect to see differently in cinemas. But now that the summer blockbuster season is well underway, it’s still nice to see films like The Big Sick similarly shine bright among the rabble of big-budget, let’s-destroy-a-city-because-I’m-irresponsible flicks.
Written by comedian Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley and The Meltdown w/ Jonah and Kumail) and his wife, Emily V. Gordon, The Big Sick tells the quasi-true story of the co-writers’ early romance. The plot centres on the medical emergency that Emily (played by Zoe Kazan) faces as she is put under a medically induced coma to help tackle a very obscure, polysyllabic illness. Kumail (played by himself), a promising stand-up who hits it off with Emily after one of his shows, ends up developing a close relationship with her mother and father whilst taking care of her in the hospital.
Spoiler alert, Kumail is left dealing with his difficult family relationship and ends up moving to New York to pursue stand-up. Emily recovers from her illness and her and Kumail end up together.
However, what stands out in this film is Kumail’s blossoming relationship with Beth and Terry Gardner, Emily’s parents. Of course, the two protagonists are the romantic centre of the film, but their romance was established well within the first hour and the audience is Team Kumail-Emily for sure. Instead, it’s in the long hospital visits Kumail shares with Beth and Terry, the difficult start to their relationship and the subsequent bonds they make, that I think people will take away from this movie. After all, it’s one thing falling in love with someone, but another thing to prove you’re good enough to that someone’s parents. It’s a story-arc I haven’t seen much of in many romantic comedies (or at least not to this extent), but it is one that The Big Sick pulls off with real charm. It also doesn’t hinder the movie that the very talented Holly Hunter and Ray Romano plays Emily’s parents, both legends in their own rights.
With a cast of talented comedians, solid writing, and a believable story, the jokes land naturally and with sincerity throughout the film. A personal highlight is Kumail’s interactions with his brother, Naveed. He is the first in Kumail’s family to learn about his relationship with Emily which is, to put it lightly, controversial. Adeel Akhtar, who plays him, provides a great perspective into why Kumail keeps his relationships so closed off from his Pakistani-Muslim family.
What’s more wonderful about this film is getting the opportunity to watch it with a Q&A featuring Kumail and Emily after the screening. With just 25 minutes to spare for the audience, they added lots of insight into their experience writing a film about such a personal story. I managed to ask Kumail about his worst stand-up story, to which he told us about a heckling woman at a gig once who told him he would never amount to anything. What she didn’t realise was that he already had a slot booked on Letterman, so I suppose Kumail had the last laugh, ironically.