For many people, finding someone who you love and cherish is the most important aspect about dating in the modern age. Centuries old traditions and beliefs on marriage have been slowly fading away, but there are still remnants of intolerance towards simply not getting married and having kids like everyone’s parents did. The Big Sick, the freshest romantic-comedy to come out in years, tells one such (true) story about a Pakistani man who falls in love with a white woman.
But The Big Sick is smarter than most movies, so the tropes we would normally see are cast out the window for something entirely new. Kumail Nanjiani, basically playing himself (and who also wrote the film) is a struggling comedian who moonlights as an Uber driver. One night a girl, Emily (Zoe Kazan) heckles him from the audience. The two meet, hit it off, and proceed to fall in love.
Sounds pretty typical, right? Except this is not allowed for Kumail due to his being a Muslim (though he doesn’t practice it) and because his parents desperately try to assert that he must be in an arranged marriage with another Muslim. After discovering that he has been hiding this from her, Emily leaves Kumail but winds up in the hospital with a bizarre infection. Kumail is called in by her friends to make sure she is ok, but then he is forced to sign her off to be put into a medical coma to ensure her well-being.
Thus enters Emily’s parents played wonderfully by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter. Knowing that Emily had dumped Kumail, they keep him at arm’s length at first. This is where the movie finds its heart. As Kumail is dealing with evading all of his parents’ attempts to find him a wife—despite the fact he isn’t being honest with them—he finds comfort in caring for Emily and spending time with her parents.
So no, this isn’t your typical rom-com. In fact, much of the movie is more about Kumail’s maturation and deciding on what he truly believes and wants. Nanjiani really brings a new voice to film with his insights on being a Muslim, dealing with stereotypes, and highlighting aspects of the religion, the people, and the traditions of those that have been wrongly perceived and hardly seen on screen. He writes with such a pulse on our times, especially in regards to the younger generations who do not want the same things our parents did. It’s witty, thoughtful, and heartbreaking all at once.
The movie can feel long, though, as it clocks in at nearly two hours with several emotional climaxes and fake-outs.There’s a sense that Kumail might be juggling too many threads here—especially when you have one character sick in the hospital, her stressed-out parents, Kumail’s own conflicts, as well as his parents. But even then, the time spent with these people is immensely rewarding. They’re living, breathing characters brought to life by Nanjiani and the actual Emily’s (V. Gordon) script that reminds us that maybe tradition isn’t really the most important thing so long as you love who you’re with and honor your family and those you cherish.