By Adam Ray Palmer
My first review of 2018 is a delight to write. Kumail Nanjiani (co-writer and star) and Michael Showalter (director) brings us an original comedy-drama that plucks on those heart strings.
Starring alongside Kumail is Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter and Everybody Loves Raymond legend Ray Romano.
The Big Sick follows Kumail, a stand-up comic/Uber driver living in Chicago. He’s comfortable with his routine life which consists of weekly family dinners where his mother, Sharmeen (Zenobia Shroff), keeps trying to set him up with marriageable Pakistani girls. However, Kumail falls for the decidedly non-Pakistani Emily (Kazan); a grad student who isn’t interested in a relationship yet dates Kumail until he doesn’t commit due to his family values.
Events then take a turn as Emily falls dramatically ill in hospital. Now her parents, Beth and Terry (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano), are around to take care of Emily, but Kumail can't bring himself to leave Emily's bedside. As he builds a tentative relationship with Emily’s parents, he recognises that he might need to make some changes in his own life.
Emily Gordon’s and Kumail Nanjiani’s real-life tale is an enchanting and thoughtful piece of filmmaking. The Big Sick is placed in the ‘rom-com’ category but it has so much more depth and meaning to it than your standard offering from the genre. For instance, for more than half of the film, Emily is in a comatose state and therefore the ‘rom-com’ as we know it must be put on hold. The film then takes a shift as Kumail must build relationships with Emily’s parents and fix even shakier ones with his own parents.
The beauty of The Big Sick isn’t necessarily the interactions between Kumail and Emily, which are nothing we haven’t seen before in romantic comedies, but the more touching and funny sequences occur when Kumail and Emily’s parents get to know each other. It’s that feeling we’ve all had when meeting someone knew who you want to impress, but for some reason it’s just frustratingly awkward. But these scenes feel fresh and original; strangers thrown together by circumstance, as they get to know each other and bond over one thing they have in common: their love for Emily.
The Big Sick offers audience members laughs, opinions, heart-warming sequences and a lot to think about. You get touching moments when Emily’s mother Beth longingly looks at Kumail at the hospital and hopes he’s in their life going forward but you also get edgy quips like Kumail stating 9/11 was a tragic day because “they lost 19 of their best guys” – brutally daring. There’s something for everyone.
Cineroom’s Rating: 4 Stars
The Big Sick is now out on DVD – certificate 15