The first half of 2017 has been nothing short of sub-par. Outside of Logan, Get Out, and Wonder Woman, there has not been much to rave about and quite frankly the year has had its slew of disappointments, not only critically but financially as well. The first half of the year has been full of more nostalgia with releases like Power Rangers, then consistent great filmmaking. However, as the first half comes to an end, we get not only the best film of the year up to now but the first film that quite possibly may hang around come awards season. That film is The Big Sick, a beautiful story of unexpected true love.
The Big Sick falls under one of my favorite criteria in film watching – unexpected surprises. While the trailers were well done and did its job in creating a buzz, little did I know that the final product would be a film that is full of heart, and one that is able to revitalize the often dreadful romantic comedy genre with a tale of love, family, and devotion. The film tells the story of Kumail, a Pakistani-American who is a stand-up comic. After a set, he meets an American graduate student named Emily and what begins as a one-night stand, turns into a relationship. However, as the two fall in love, Kumail begins to worry about what his traditional Muslim parents will think of her and whether they will accept her. When Emily comes down with an unknown illness that leaves her in a medically induced coma, Kumail finds himself dealing with not only Emily but balancing his career, family and a relationship with Emily’s mother and father.
Directed by Michael Showalter, whose most recent work includes 2016’s underrated Hello, My Name Is Doris, continues his strong work by putting together sweet early scenes, which are used to establish the characters’ rapport and relationships with each other. He shows Kumail’s frustration with his family’s traditional ways of arranged marriage, to his early conversations with Emily in which Kumail explains comics disdain of heckling, to Kumail’s connection with Emily’s parents, Showalter is able to flesh out all the film’s characters and create an importance to all of them.
While romantic comedies are not usually up my alley, The Big Sick does something unique and tells its love story through Kumail and has its female lead absent for a large majority of the film. Because of Emily’s development early on in the film, you miss her character’s presence when she isn’t there. As someone who is watching, you truly feel for Kumail and understand as to why he has fallen in love with her. Another difference from the traditional rom-com, the film spends time focusing on Kumail’s developing relationship with Emily’s parents. At first, they’re reluctant to let him be involved in Emily’s care, but as the film progresses and the three of them spend hours together, eventually they grow closer. His connection with Emily’s parents leads Kumail to realize how much he loves Emily, along with gaining the courage to tell his own family about his relationship with her, his comedy career, and that he’s not a practicing Muslim.
The establishment of the relationship with not only Emily but both sets of parents shows that The Big Sick is not just any normal romantic comedy and more than just the love story between Kumail and Emily but a story about Kumail’s relationship with two sets of parents.
The characters from this true story are all endearing and that’s not just based on their development but also the actors’ performances. From Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Ray Romano to Holly Hunter, all the performances throughout the film are outstanding. In an era, where the fun and heart is consistently taken out of the romantic comedy, The Big Sick is a true joy to watch and establishes new ground in not only reigniting the genre but creates new ways to make it effective and gives cinephiles 2017’s best film thus far.
Reel Talk gives The Big Sick 4 reels