The Big Sick (Amazon Studios/Apatow Productions/Filmnation) Cert 15, 120 mins
Relationships can I’ve been told be a bit of a minefield at times. There’s a lot to balance out beyond being a couple – family, friends and despite love for each other there are differences to overcome like not appreciating that the Star Wars franchise is way better than Grease or Dirty Dancing and that why yes you are watching the films again when they come on TV despite having seen them several hundred times. The previous weekend. I jest of course, I am a very lucky blogger who has hidden all the sharp things as a precaution. In all seriousness Mrs Blogger is thoroughly splendid. Later this week marks 12 years married and 22 years together in total! Lucky me 🙂 *waves at Mrs Blogger*
Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily Gordon trump most when it comes to relationship ups and downs though – The Big Sick is the true life tale of how they got together, broke up and then she had to be put in a medically induced coma to save her life. Standard stuff…
The couple wrote the movie and Nanjiani stars as himself (he really gets the character bang on). He’s a successful stand up comedian who is one of the stars of hit HBO comedy Silicon Valley which if you’ve not seen I can highly recommend – it’s a very funny take on the world of tech start ups in California and he’s extremely good in it. Check it out. But don’t go yet, keep reading this please and thank you.
Oh but before we do crack on here’s a fun fact for Scottish readers…Kumail is the second cousin of our very own journalist and broadcaster Shereen Nanjiani! Small world eh?
Back to our story…born in Pakistan Kumail and his family moved to America when he was a teenager. He decided that rather than go down the traditional route of becoming a doctor or lawyer and having an arranged marriage that he wanted to be a stand up comedian and it’s in this role that we pick up the film and witness his first meeting with Emily (played in the movie by Zoe Kazan).
Despite beginning to form a meaningful relationship with Emily, Kumail still has to contend with his mother’s dogged determination to set up an arranged marriage and there’s some fun to be had as he has regular dinners with his family and a procession of girls “drop in” to join them at the table. All the while he’s getting deeper into his relationship with Emily – a fact he keeps hidden from his family. But he’s also keeping Emily in the dark about the other women. A dangerous juggling act.
When she realises that Kumail hasn’t been entirely upfront, Emily ends their relationship and he slumps back in to his world of trying to make it in the cutthroat world of stand up and avoiding being married off to someone he’s not interested in by his mother. Things take a turn for the worse though as Emily finds herself in hospital battling what she thinks is a minor illness which quickly turns into a life threatening event.
It’s at this point the movie steps up a gear. When you realise that the events which unfold actually happened (although I’m sure there are a few elements of artistic licence applied – it’s their story after all) it makes the story so much more powerful and poignant. Happily there is always a strong vein of humour running through the film, especially when Emily’s parents turn up.
Having never actually met them, Kumail struggles at first. Emily’s mum (Holly Hunter) knows why the couple broke up and she’s not shy at letting him know what she thinks of that. In fact she’s not shy in any respect when it comes to telling people what she thinks. Her husband Terry (Everybody Loves Raymond star Ray Romano making a welcome non-woolly mammoth based appearance on the big screen) helps ease the tension between them all while Emily is in her coma and the doctors battle to save her life. There’s real humour and heart in the script and the interaction between all three actors is a joy to watch as they develop a bond while waiting on Emily getting better.
Excellent performances are the order of the day by all involved helped by the sharp script from the real life husband and wife. Clearly we know Emily makes it out of her coma but it’s the journey Kumail experiences during that time with her family and his own which provide a real sense of emotion, warmth and at times silliness. And sometimes sadness – especially when he reveals his lost relationship with Emily to his family and his revelations that he doesn’t pray and isn’t studying to be a lawyer. Mother does not react well…but once again though there is a great deal of humour to be found in the situation and it’s a credit to both Kumail and Emily that they’ve been able to write a script that still keeps the laughs coming during the more serious times.
Even when Emily and his family reject him there is still room to take a lighter view of a tough situation and it’s this approach which marks this movie as something a little bit different from the norm.
A charming, warm and very funny film made all the more amazing by the fact that Emily did actually end up in a medically induced coma. Perfectly paced, this is a film that will make you smile, perhaps shed a tear or two but then bring you back up with a laugh. It takes a sweet look at what family and finding love really means and turns some conventions upside down while it does. But all in the best possible taste as Kenny Everett used to say.
Credit to all involved for producing a fun romantic comedy which I hope gets as big an audience as possible. Seek it out while you can!