Running Time: 124 minutes
Director: Michael Showalter
The Big Sick is an unconventional film in a conventional genre. Its difference lies in its main character, with Pakistanis often left out of your typical rom-com. However, just defining this movie by its diversity would be reducing it to a single factor, which would completely undermine how good a movie it actually is.
The Big Sick, directed by Michael Showalter, was written by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, as a semi-autobiographical tale of their lives. Their story isn’t ‘standard’ by any means. In fact, we see the relationship flourish and end quickly before the crux of the story even starts. So, here’s the plot: Emily is put into a medically induced coma and has to fight an infection that doctors are unable to identify. Kumail has to then navigate his feelings towards Emily while dealing with her parents, the film then following the complexities of extended illness and family. The film deals with a lot of heavy-hitting issues, permeating and building to create tension and frustration about lives in flux. Kumail is dealing with a burgeoning stand-up career (right on the cusp of ‘making it’), pressure from his family tradition, and on top of that dealing with his crush in a coma. All of these separate elements are dealt with wonderfully, with humour and honesty, each getting ample screen time. Nanjiani and Gordon have done an incredible job in interweaving these themes without them feeling overwhelmingly heavy. The humour is subtle, and is as cathartic to the audience watching the film as it must’ve been living through it. This is a true story, and shines in its authentic honesty. For anyone who has lived through experiences of prolonged hospital stays, it’s so utterly familiar.
It also has to be said that the acting brings a lot to the table. Dealing with in-laws can be difficult enough but at a time with such heightened fear and anxiety, it was both heartbreaking to watch and stunningly beautiful. Also, the scenes with Kumail and his family were highlights, with huge laughs scattered through heavy subject matter, such as intersecting cultures and the expectation of family tradition.
This movie is very important in the way it gives different perspectives of culture and family a voice in an industry that so often only favours a dominant norm. While it does represent a growing change in showing more perspectives in film, it strengthens this change because the film is purely ‘that good’. The more perspectives and cultures we get in film will only see benefit for both the industry and people in our society. However, outside of that paradigm, The Big Sick should be a movie seen on its merit as a film—one that it is a beautiful story about family, love and relationships. Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani have delivered a film that must’ve been hard to relive, but for us as an audience, is a genuine pleasure to watch.