the big sick
The Big Sick. Source: Amazon Studios.

Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan star in The Bick Sick, a harmless and funny Rom-Com penned by Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon about how they met and fell in love.

The template for most Rom-Coms is simple, especially from the male character’s point of view. Boy meets Girl, Boy loses Girl, Boy performs some kind of big gesture to win back the Girl and they live happily ever after.

Through years of movie making, many Rom-Coms have been churned out trying to find fresh angles, either changing the order of the template or rejigging how the Boy meets the Girl or even having the Girl make the effort to get the Boy back.

The Plot

In this instance, Nanjiani plays a version of himself, Kumail, who works as an Uber driver by day and performs Stand Up Comedy gigs at night, where he meets therapist in training Emily (Zoe Kazan).

For the most part, the character development centres on Kumail and his family’s culture of arranged marriages, as shown by his Mother’s (Zenobia Schroff) unending efforts to find him a match through dinner “drop ins” from eligible Pakistani women.

But Kumail is disillusioned when it comes to his culture’s strictness in religious practices or finding a suitable Pakistani bride.

Kumail and Emily
Kumail and Emily. Source – Slate.com

Kumail and Emily start a relationship (as in they have sex before being on an official date – does this happen in real life?!) except Kumail doesn’t mention Emily at all to his family and doesn’t mention to Emily his family’s demand of him to marry a Pakistani bride.

The set up for the “Boy loses Girl” step of the Rom-Com template involves Emily discovering Kumail’s files of eligible Pakistani women and the fact that Kumail hasn’t even mentioned his relationship with Emily to his family for fear that he will be “shunned”.

The Twist

After the break up, Kumail has moved on pretty quick, but he gets a call telling him Emily is in the hospital with some kind of flu which turns out to be a coma inducing virus.

This is where the title of the film comes in to play.  While Emily is in a medically induced coma, it falls on Kumail to contact Emily’s Mother, Beth (Holly Hunter) and Father, Terry (Ray Romano).  Although Beth knows they broke up and tells him to go away, Kumail refuses and bonds with Emily’s folks as they agonise over her treatment and whether they should move her to another hospital.

Ray Romano and Holly Hunter
Ray Romano and Holly Hunter. Source – Vox

The Big Sick differentiates itself from the usual Rom-Com formula by focusing on the trials of family traditions, interracial and interfaith relationships.  The last time I saw this being used as a plot device in a Rom-Com was Keeping the Faith.

There are plenty of jokes and one-liners concerning Kumail’s religion which ties in with Kumail, who is forced to confess to his parents about his relationship with a non-Pakistani woman when he misses a dinner drop-in while waiting on Emily in the hospital. So, unfortunately for him, briefly, he loses both the girl and his family.

The way The Big Sick ends fits neatly with the template of Boy getting Girl back. I won’t spoil it for you but I’m glad it’s not as depressing an ending like 500 Days of Summer.

The only major complaints I have with the script is there’s some slow moments: Kumail’s one man show that doesn’t really go anywhere; unnecessary scenes such as when Terry tells Kumail about personal issues he’s had with Beth.

There’s also a rather large plot hole or lack of a plot – Emily never gets to meet Kumail’s parents.  I heard a disappointed “Aw?” from an audience member when the closing credits appeared (actual pictures of Nanjiani’s parents and the “real” Emily and their wedding pictures).

It seems I wasn’t the only one invested in their relationship story and I felt oddly cheated that I never got to see how Emily and her parents would interact with Kumail’s parents but then that would be getting into Meet the Parents territory.

The Verdict

The Big Sick is a solid Rom-Com that has plenty of laughs, although character development of the two leads are rather one sided due to one of them being in a coma for most of the film.

There’s also not too much “begging” by the male character to get back with the Girl, which gives the script an automatic tick from me. The script bravely tackles issues that are not normally part of the Rom-Com formula and would strike a chord with those who face decisions about relationships that can affect the family dynamic.

If you want to take a break from the CGI heavy blockbuster movie releases and have a couple of hours to spare (Runtime is 120 minutes) for a Rom-Com that makes you feel good, then The Big Sick should be right up your alley.

I'm a cinephile, bookworm, scriptwriter and novelist with an MA in Writing. When talking about movies, books or TV shows, my blood pressure usually goes up.