Review: The Big Sick

The Big Sick was marketed as a rom com, a genre I usually avoid, but I wanted to see this one because the premise seemed genuinely different: a cross-cultural relationship that was ultimately more about meeting the parents.

You know what I hate about that trailer? How it makes Emily (Zoe Kazan) look like a manic pixie dream girl who exists only to show us what a loveable doofus her boyfriend is. You know what I loved about the actual movie? How she’s none of those things. This shouldn’t surprise me, as the film is essentially a true story and written by the couple it happened to. But the movie biz is what it is, and I have come to expect the worst.

Never mind. The Big Sick is an odd movie that doesn’t really fit comfortably into a genre. Not funny enough to be a comedy (though it does have some unyielding moments), too socially aware to be a romance, though it is a love story at its core, too much comedy and romance to be a drama…

The essentials of the story you can get from the trailer above. Pakistani-American boy meets White American girl and they begin a relationship. She breaks up with him hen she learns his family expect him to submit to an arranged marriage. Shortly after the break up, she falls ill with a mysterious infection which causes doctors to place her in a medically induced coma. Boy bonds with her parents while she is sleeping. That much is in the trailer and I won’t add much more because I found the rest delightful and wouldn’t want to spoil it.

The highlights: the comedy club scene where Emily’s parents go to see Kumail perform and discover something about the racist abuse he has to put up with. The scene is played for laughs, a little, but it also highlights the less confrontational racism that Beth and Terry display themselves and shows Kumail that for all Terry’s talk of 9/11, his heart is in the right place. It’s a nice turning point for all three characters. Also Emily’s reaction both to Kumail’s apparent acceptance of his arranged marriage and to his apology after she recovers is pitch-perfect. And Kumail’s mother’s rejection-not-rejection of her son when he proclaims his love for a white girl.

Bad points: I’m not sure the toilet humour was strictly necessary – or, really, that funny – and as much as the story is based on a true one, I did feel the portrayal of Kumail’s family and culture was very clichéd. (Also, I must have watched too much House because I totally called what was causing her illness.)

It is a gentle, intimate film, not necessary to fork out to see it on the big screen, but if you get the chance to see it when it hits the streaming services – grab a glass of wine and some chocolate, and enjoy.