Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter
Director: Michael Showalter
Running Time: 120 mins
The Big Sick is an American film about a young couple whose relationship hits an obstacle when their two respective cultural backgrounds clash.
This is an amazing film. Not only is it an absolute triumph when it comes to being a genuinely funny and entertaining romantic comedy, but also an unexpected delight with regards to its dramatic story, filled with genuine heart and real passion from start to finish, making The Big Sick more than just an entertaining rom-com, but an incredibly engrossing and emotionally resonating story for the ages.
There’s so much to praise about this film, but it’s fair to say that the comedy is the very best part of it all. On the one hand, it’s full of fantastically funny gags that will have you bursting out laughing, not only poking fun at American and Pakistani culture, but also being witty and quick-thinking enough to keep surprising you with more and more hugely hilarious jokes throughout the movie.
On the other hand, there’s something very heartfelt and real about the humour here. This isn’t in any way, shape or form a dumb romantic comedy, but rather a film that shapes its sense of humour around the way the story is developing. So, when things are going well in the relationship, there’s lots of light, hugely funny comedy, and when things hit a rough patch, the film manages to keep you laughing while still honouring the dramatic and emotional nature of the story.
And that’s where the film’s biggest success comes in. About a third of the way through, the story takes a huge turn, and (without spoilers), completely changes the dynamic of the two lead characters’ relationship, as well as bringing the parents of the woman into play, and allowing their bond with the man to be examined much deeper.
All of that happens in some very dramatic circumstances, and they’re circumstances which you really don’t see coming at all a few minutes before it all happens. Now, we’ve seen many movies try this, blend a sweet and funny romantic comedy with a more dramatic and serious story, but for the most part, they rarely ever manage to mix the two genres together well enough, regularly losing their comedic prowess in exchange for something far more dour.
In The Big Sick, however, the blend between comedy and drama couldn’t be more perfect. Kumail Nanjiani expertly shows this in his performance, managing to portray his character’s genuine emotional distress, and yet never losing his innate love for comedy and joy despite a difficult situation, something that shines through in the film’s atmosphere brilliantly.
The addition of the parents, played beautifully by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, is an extra strength, as we get to watch the growth of a deep and powerful bond between strangers in difficult circumstances, and yet the laughter never dies, shining through and keeping the film a genuinely entertaining watch.
And in that comes the film’s true heart. Rather than trying to be melodramatic and turn a once sweet romance into a tragedy, The Big Sick sticks with what you fell in love with right at the beginning: its joy. Without the continuing comedy and fun-loving characters throughout the film’s more dramatic second half, its greatest strength would have been completely lost.
What’s more is that through using comedy, it replicates how real human beings deal with tragedy. As difficult as things get, real people will always try to find the brighter side of things, and that shines through in The Big Sick’s beautifully real dialogue, full of well-paced and perfectly written conversations that mix people’s grief and joy, with each and every character trying their best to get through a difficult situation in the only way possible, and that’s what really made this film stand out for me.
It’s a fantastically funny comedy, and it’s full of brilliant performances, but what makes The Big Sick really great is its heart. It’s not a melodrama, nor is it a dumb rom-com, but rather a film with real passion and heart that makes an utterly riveting and genuinely entertaining two hours out of its story, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.6 overall.
And then you realise that the whole thing is a true story from Kumail Nanjiani’s own life…