Directed by: Michael Showalter
Written by: Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani
Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Anupam Kher
Growth moves at different speeds for each person depending on their life circumstances and willingness. No one can be forced to grow unless they’re willing to, which directly impacts the ideals of the relationships held in the incredibly funny and heartwarming The Big Sick. Through its management of emotions and creating touching relationships from the land of awkwardness, it turns into a lovely story.
After having a one-night stand together, Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) and Emily (Zoe Kazan) start seeing each other and develop great chemistry. With this new relationship, he must manage his parents, who desperately want him to get into an arranged marriage to a Pakistani woman. After essentially breaking off their relationship, Emily is put into a medically-induced coma, which makes Kumail the person needing to take care of her.
The moments set up following Emily’s coma wanted me to sink into my seat out of the awkwardness that would ensue. Kumail needed to contact her parents, who know about their break up. The parents, Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano) arrive and you just have to look away from how uncomfortable the conversations get, but it shows what works so brilliantly in this story. Trappings romantic-comedies find themselves in comes from the lack of substance in relationships outside of the main pair we root for. With our female lead out of the picture for a good portion of the film, this story becomes about Kumail growing and bonding with Emily’s parents. With this method, the film truly blossoms.
It certainly helps when the parents are portrayed by two great actors in Holly Hunter and Ray Romano. They both embody this protectiveness for their daughter, but also have flaws just like Kumail, which they own up to. Hunter puts in amazing work, which is to be expected but Romano’s performance started his rise in the independent scene. Mostly known for his stand-up work and his sitcom, he has begun to build himself some great acting credits and he really shines as Terry. He blends his natural comedic skill with the sympathetic performance of a father trying to figure out this sticky situation. He comes around to Kumail before his wife, so he needs to manage to try to forge a relationship with his daughter’s ex-boyfriend and not have his wife kill him.
The story comes from the minds and experiences of the married duo, Kumail Nanjiani, and Emily V. Gordon. They put together the script and the story flows through them even if only one of them happens to be starring in the role. It’s a fictionalized story but shows partly how Emily and Kumail initially got together. Putting together this idea must have been a collaboration for the ages and the script works incredibly well. The way it snaps the convention of romantic comedies makes it feel incredibly refreshing. The Big Sick refuses to play by the tropes of its genre and plays out in a deeply human way.
The star of the feature is Kumail portraying a fictional version of himself. The narrative focuses on his growth in trying to have autonomy in deciding whom he will marry. He has to battle his parents’ expectations that he will accept an arranged marriage, which he fights against ever so slightly. He dates Emily, but never tells them about her, which became the seed that ended their relationship prior to her coma. Kumail knows that his family will disown him if he ever dares to bring a white girl home, but his moment of learning comes from deciding if his freedom to choose outweighs having the conditional relationship his family offers. A cultural divide that drives a wedge in the failed relationship between him and Emily along with holding him back from happiness.
Through the unbearable awkwardness that occurs initially, The Big Sick manages to tell a beautifully refreshing tale that sticks the landing with its theme. It allowed two incredible minds to come together and craft a script so moving that I forget that the film is actually very funny. A bonafide success, which only made everyone involved look great from the actors to the writers, and the director. A tremendous collaboration that broke away from the conventions that have preceded it and told a story that carried warmth, while also creating a fertile ground for growth and freedom to emerge.