15 – 124mins – 2017
BEST SEEN COLD
While The Big Sick’s reputation precedes it, literally all I knew about this acclaimed indie rom-com prior to last night’s Cineworld Unlimited cardholder preview screening was that critics were raving about it Stateside, and it co-starred Ruby Sparks herself, quirky cutie Zoe Kazan.
I didn’t even really consider the implications behind the title (silly as that sounds), yet the film had all the greater impact on me for the surprise the plot twist dealt. Written by lead actor Kumail Nanjiani and his real-life wife Emily V. Gordon, The Big Sick is a biographical retelling of how this interracial couple met, hooked up, broke up, then fell in love.
Pakistani Kumail comes from a strict Muslim family who only want him to be a lawyer and marry a nice Pakistani girl. Oblivious to his discomfort, his mother (Zenobia Shroff) continues to set him up in arranged marriages. When Kumail meets Emily (The Monster’s Kazan), a ‘heckler’ at one of his stand-up shows, they instantly hit it off. However, Kumail’s fears that his family would disown him for dating a white American leads to an unhappy break up.
Weeks pass and Kumail is woken one night by a phone call from one of Emily’s friends – his ex has taken seriously ill and they need someone to stay with her at the hospital. While Emily is put into a medically-induced coma and goes in for surgery, Kumail stays loyally by her side, even when her parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Ice Age Romano) show up and give him the cold shoulder.
But as hours turn to days, Kumail continues his resilient vigil and a bond grows between him and Emily’s parents, who come to see what Kumail himself sees: his love for his ex and the huge mistake he made in breaking things off with her. Question is, will Emily feel the same way when she wakes up?
So, yeah, this is basically While You Were Sleeping for the Funny People generation. A cross-culture romance for the 2010s, told in a naturalistic and truly endearing fashion. Characters clash but no-one is judged for their beliefs; jokes fall flat but they just make the real zingers shine all the brighter. The Big Sick doesn’t even own up to being based on a true story until a photograph slideshow accompanies the end credits.
This is a Judd Apatow production so the expectant patience-testing duration is once more a factor (two hours-plus for a comedy is usually a death knell), but The Big Sick is fresh and funny enough to always retain your attention, whether it is cracking you up or making you cry. As the subject matter attests, it isn’t always the brightest or most buoyant of comedies (at times it is downright melancholic!), but it is one of the warmest of recent years, giving hope to these cynical and depressing times.
CR@B’s Claw Score: