The Big Sick, directed by Michael Showalter, is a sweet, genuinely funny and every so often emotionally gut-wrenching film. I found it so easy to want to settle in and become a part of this films story. It is filled with people you want to watch; people whose lives seem fun, but are still marred by the complications of life. You will laugh, you will be pulled in by how genuine it all feels, and by the end you will be fully a part of the character’s lives. But let’s explore in more depth, why this film is so effortlessly engaging. On with the review.
Kumail Nanjiani – played by Kumail Nanjiani (isn’t that handy) – falls for Emily – played by Zoe Kazan. They embark on what seems like a sweet, normal relationship, but lurking in the background is a truth that Kumail is afraid to tell her. Because of his Pakistani heritage, his family will disown him if he marries a white girl. Such a complication sees the two splitting up. But after Emily falls ill and is put into a medically induced coma, Kumail realises how important she is to him. Those feelings are only strengthened after he forms a strong bond with Emily’s parents. It is a love story that hits you with the realities of life.
There is something so warming, so welcoming about The Big Sick. It was present in the trailers (which in turn made me want to see the film) and then it was ever-present throughout the film. I think much of what makes that be, is the films two lead characters and also some of the supporting cast. Kumail and Emily are characters who are wonderful to watch together and whose story is simple (at first) but utterly watchable.
What helps that be the case is that the film allows plenty of time for both that characters to develop (individually and together) and it also allows time for the audience to settle in and become a part of their story. Had that not been the case, I think this film would have failed before it even got going.
Because there is time for everything to grow and develop, it means that when things do take a turn for the worse and things become very complicated between Emily and Kumail, it is all the more effective and all the more captivating. By that point you are invested; you care and you want to see their story through to the end.
However, I will say that the film didn’t need to be 2 hours long, because while it benefits the film in the beginning (the characters being the ones who benefit the most) there is a noticeable struggle nearer the end of the film. Things slow down and feel a little plodding in the final few scenes and for me it took away some of the impact from the ending. I still loved the time I spent with the film and at no point regret the time I spent with it, but I think the final few scenes could have done with a tighter, more focused conclusion.
But there is something in the film that never once faltered, and that was the ever-present and ever clear chemistry between the two lead characters. From the first time they meet, you can feel something honest between Emily and Kumail. It is heart-warming and it just makes you feel good. And then when the relationship hits its first major bump in the road, it hurts all the more because you care about these two people and you want to see their relationship succeed.
The film doesn’t make it easy, though. There are many hurdles put in the way of Kumail and Emily. Hurdles that seem impossible to get over. The cultural differences, the medical dangers or simply them as people. The Big Sick is diverse in the topics that it handles and they all feed into these two people and their seemingly doomed relationship. But it never feels like too much. It never felt like the film was getting bogged down in sub-plots or wasn’t paying the right attention to the story. It all serves the greater purpose of exploring the relationship between Emily and Kumail.
And alongside our two main characters are some great supporting characters. In particular, Emily’s parents, Beth – played by Holly Hunter – and Terry – played by Ray Romano. The two of them help bring a lot heart and humour to an already heart-filled and humour-filled film. The bond that they have with their daughter and also the bond that they form with Kumail is perhaps the greatest strength of the film. It not only seeps its way into your heart, but it has you laughing many times.
And it also created an interesting dynamic, when compared to Kumail’s parents, Sharmeen – played by Zenobia Shroff – and Azmat – played by Anupam Kher. They are very devout to their religious beliefs and their cultural norms. This brings a different perspective to the film; a perspective that will certainly seem odd (maybe even somewhat wrong) to a western audience, but it is never handled in a way that seems disrespectful. I found it enlightening to learn about practices within the Pakistani culture and I also liked how the film approached it in comparison to western beliefs and also through how Emily’s parents are (who are also people who are not perfect).
And the thing that makes it all more potent, is that the film is based loosely on the real story of how Kumail and Emily met. For me, learning that made the film all the more powerful and all the more memorable. Obviously parts were altered or shifted around to make them more dramatic, but that still doesn’t take away from the fact that it is a beautiful story and a beautiful film.
In the end, The Big Sick was exactly the experience I was hoping it would be. The film had me laughing (quite a few times). The film had me gripped by its story, and the film was an emotional ride that forever held my attention. Honest performances, a memorable, heartstring-pulling story and just a generally wonderful film.
I will be recommending The Big Sick. This is certainly one of the best romantic comedies I’ve seen in some time and a film you should definitely make the effort to see.
What did you think of The Big Sick or my review? Let me know in the comments down below. I would be great if you could follow my blog directly and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings – as that way I can hopefully build awareness of it. If not, that’s fine but I hope you’ll accept my thanks for taking the time to read my review and I hope you return to read more of my writing in the future.