The Big Sick

Funny yet feisty, The Big Sick is a relatable and enjoyable dramedy with a big heart.

Touted as a romantic-comedy from producer Judd Apatow, The Big Sick is a special film with all the hallmarks of a sleeper hit. Although Apatow is widely known for writing and producing films with over-the-top debauchery (usually involving cohorts Seth Rogen, James Franco and Jonah Hill), The Big Sick really belongs to screenwriter and lead actor Kumail Nanjiani, a Pakistan-born comedian who this film is based on.

Beginning as a standard boy-meets-girl story, the film is about Kumail (as himself), an Uber driver by day and a stand-up comedian by night. When he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan) at one of his shows, they hook up instantly until the choices they make result in painful consequences for both. But even before the token culture clash theme takes centre stage, the story veers off into a mushier bitter-sweet territory when Emily is diagnosed with a life threatening illness that have doctors confounded (hence the title).

During all this time, Kumail hasn’t mentioned a word about his relationship with a ‘white woman’ to his devoutly Muslim parents (played by Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff) who are under the impression their son is studying law. Being shoehorned into an arranged marriage is another problem for Kumail who is not only head-over-heels for Emily, but is also discovering his own identity as an immigrant living in Chicago. Although these so called Desi moments are packed with amusing one-liners and unadulterated cultural anecdotes, the film really opens up with the arrival of Ray Romano and Holly Hunter as Emily’s parents. Romano as usual is always loveable, but Hunter is absolutely priceless as a show stealer in every scene and catharsis in the film’s central message on religious and cultural intolerance.

While films like East is East and From Bombay to Paris (RIP Om Puri) touched upon cultural differences of Subcontinent immigrants in a foreign land, Kumail along with real wife an co-writer Emily Gordon hits it out of the park with relatable challenges associated with inter-racial relationships. In portraying these issues on screen, there is crackling chemistry between Kumail and Kazan standing in for the real Emily. Even if the audience has no idea this film is based on a true story, one can’t really compare this to Hollywood Desi films that came before. Funny yet genuine, touching yet liberating, soulful yet feisty, The Big Sick is as much a heart-stealer as it is an intelligent dramedy with a big heart.

Rating: ★★★★☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.