Film Review: The Big Sick @ Sundance London 2017

★★★☆☆ – The Big Sick is what you’d expect from a stand-up comedian: self-depreciating in an endearing way, full of zingy one-liners, and probably talks too much for its own good.

Based loosely on the life of comedian and now film-star Kumail Nanjiani, the film is a touching insight how the relationship between himself and writer Emily V. Gordon blossomed, though this time, Zoe Kazan plays the Emily of his dreams.

Running a solid two hours, the dialogue-heavy narrative propels itself through a lot of the aspects that make up Kumail’s life – from his time grafting in the comedy club, to leading his double life as an Uber driver, to the titular illness that puts a hold on Emily’s life.

Discovering a mysterious infection that doctors struggle to pin down, Emily is put into a medically induced coma – but not before a whole host of problems have come to a head with their relationship. Kumail has been lying to his strict Muslim family, who want to set him up in an arranged marriage with a Pakistani girl. Hiding Emily from his family and his family from Emily, the lies he weaves only serve to distance both parties.

When Emily falls sick, her mother and father already know of Kumail’s ill-treatment of their daughter. His perseverance details the latter half of the film, bringing together Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano) and learning about himself in the process. It feels like a much longer film than it is, purely for the amount that director Michael Showalter manages to pack in.

The cast of the film are a testament to the comedy genre. The timing is excellent, and the humorous content is always delivered in just the right doses. There aren’t any moments where it becomes too much, and the tone shifts gracefully between serious and silly. The casting is superb in its variety and attention to detail.

On the other hand, it does have to be said that whether purposeful or not, that the chemistry between Kumail and Emily’s parents is more potent than with Emily herself. The sheer volume of speech and length of the film can be a little overbearing at times – but still works admirably in crafting a well-balanced narrative. The Big Sick has a lot of irrelevant content, but it all comes together into creating something that really does feel true to life.

As a romantic-comedy, it might be a bit much. As some sort of autobiographical piece and a poignant representation of two cultures colliding in contemporary American – it is bang on the mark. Comedy meets terminal illness, Muslim culture meets Americana, and Kumail meets the love of his life. As relevant as it is endearing.

The Big Sick screened as part of Sundance London schedule 1st – 4th June. It will be in cinemas 14th July 2017.

This article was originally posted on The National Student.


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