Based on a true story, The Big Sick follows the tale of Emily Gardener (Zoe Kazan) and Kumail Nanjiani (playing himself) as they traverse the current dating scene. The journey that they take us on shows us how everyone is afraid of getting hurt, of putting themselves on the line and ultimately, how we are afraid of commitment.
Emily and Kumail meet after his comedy show where he picks her up at the bar by writing her name in Urdu. Fast forward and they start dating and then break up, but she falls incredibly ill and needs to be placed in a medically induced coma. Kumail, her ex at this point, is the closest person she has and stays with her for weeks throughout the entire hospital stay. For him, he realises that he loves her again and there’s no one else who could compare. For her, she has no clue he’s been there and she’s still at the post-break up stage of disliking him.
The movie is slow and incredibly awkward at times. Think: talking about orgasmic clarity and the sex life of your ex’s father. Meanwhile, she is still in a coma and you realise that you still kinda love her. However, I believe that this is to not over-dramatise the story that director Michael Showalter and writers – the real Emily and Kumail – are telling. Instead, they have made it as real and authentic as possible.
The Big Sick emphasises the cross-cultural differences between the two characters and the complexities that these add to their relationship. We watch their families reconcile and accept the different experiences. We see the daily bigotry that Kumail faces and how he deals with it. We watch Zoe as she grapples to understand other cultural practices despite how backward they may seem, such as arranged marriage. Along with the characters before us, we learn about the contemporary difficulties that many face in our globalised and multicultural world.
This film feels awfully familiar. It illustrates how we cope with the hardships of life through humour and the bottling of our emotions until we reach breaking point. You couldn’t find a more authentic romantic comedy. Yes, there are the cliché realisations that you still love your ex and that you messed up in the relationship. Except, rather than the classic airport scene, this occurs in a hospital room.
Ultimately, this movie is awkward, real and honest about human relationships and life.
After the movie, I ran into a woman in the toilets for that post-movie pee, and asked her what she thought of the movie. Her answer sums up what many will think after watching this: ‘It was real and touching – for me anyway. I loved it.’