Gettin’ Down with The Big Sick[ness]

Ethan Parker
Apr 7, 2020 · 6 min read

Sitting on my shelf for the past two or so years, The Big Sick has always been a film I’ve been meaning to get to. With the world going mad and all the theaters closed down, it was time that I finally went for one of the biggest films that has been biting at me from my watchlist, and I regret not getting to it sooner.

Framed as a romantic comedy, but is so much more than that, The Big Sick portrays the (mostly) true story of how Kumail Nanjiani came to meet his now wife: Emily V. Gordon, and the multiple tribulations that were met on building that relationship in the harsh realities of life. The Big Sick sticks mostly to the real story around Nanjiani and Gordon’s relationship, but does taper off into some cinematic clichés for the sake of pacing and adding some extra dramatic tension to the whole endeavor, yet the romantic bond and medical hardships shown in the film are as real as they come.

While being a romantic comedy at heart, there’s a lot more to unpack with The Big Sick, to the point where a large majority of this film isn’t actually romantic at all, but rather a slice of life showcase on the struggles young adults face in their life. One of the absolute best things a diverse film can do is showcase the hardships of someone that are dealing with specific cultural issues yet can still feel relatable to absolutely everybody; it sheds common misconceptions about other cultures by showing that people may look different, and may pray to a different god, yet we’re all human beings with the same adversities in life.

Kumail’s life has seen a lot of success, but with many sacrifices brought along the way, and one of which is the rocky relationship that he has with his parents. The Big Sick carries a heavy theme of trying to adhere to the lifestyles that your family expects of you, who’ve done all they can to raise you to be the person they would want you to be, but you ultimately go down a separate path than expected. The Big Sick frames this narrative by showing Kumail adapting to western culture more than his family had expected, ditching the Muslim customs his family are trying to enforce on him, yet it’s just not what he wants to do in life. Nanjiani wants to live the life he wants, and that causes issues within his family dynamic, however, it never turns hateful, and shows a great deal of respect for Muslim culture as a whole.

Anyway, many people (including myself) see a lot in Nanjiani in this film, recognizing the issues he had to struggle through, and feeling some of that, themselves; I’m a very lucky person to have a supportive family at my side, and while I had my own disagreements with politics and life with my family, they’re ultimately extremely supportive and accept the person I am, and still love me as they always did. In the place I live, it’s an all too common occurrence for younger people to step out of the framework the culture surrounding this area breeds, and all the time I hear horror stories about people distancing themselves from the hierarchical religion that rules over the state, with relationships souring because of it. I never had to deal with that issue on such an escalated level, yet I feel and understand where those people are coming from, and the possible hurt they feel over their decisions. I know I could be reading far too much into what seemingly marks a more minor aspect to the totality of The Big Sick, but it’s so relatable to many different people. Whether you grew up in a Muslim household or a Christian one, these seemingly eastern issues hit close to home no matter who you are.

On top of dealing with parental troubles, Nanjiani has plenty of other issues to deal with, such as caring for the woman he messed up with, trying to fulfill his passions of the career path he set himself on, and also trying to gain the respect of his (sort of) ex’s parents, who’re dealing with insane stresses and anxieties surrounding the hospitalization of their daughter. What makes The Big Sick such an interesting film is not necessarily the romantic or comedic angles of the film — which are fantastic on their own — but that the film elevates past those to craft a multi-layered story that really gets inside the head of Kumail and the people around him, empathizing with both him and the people who surround his life. Through combating those hardships, there is still tons of comedy to go around, and all of it is great. I have loved Nanjiani’s work up to this point and have followed his work ever since seeing clips of his hilarious standup online, and that same frenetic, downright gut-busting energy is brought here as well. I am a hard man to make laugh, and I’ve made that clear plenty of times through my resentment of so many obnoxious studio comedies released over the years, however, The Big Sick had me gasping for air several times from its poignant and surprising comedic moments. Even more surprising is how engaged I was in the romance and overall dramatic tension of the film, which at times brought me to tears. I laughed and cried all the way through a romantic comedy: a genre of film I have usually found despicable for its trite clichés and same-old narrative structures, but that shows how an amazing script and dedicated performances can transcend any genre of film.

Although The Big Sick is a stunning film, it does have some glaring issues. While not a completely damning issue, there are some rather “off” instances of ADR; at times a shot-reverse-shot sequence will be happening with a character speaking, and while the lines transcend to the next shot, it’s clear that their face isn’t moving even though they’re still speaking; it’s minor but still a bit on an issue. The only other issue I honestly have with The Big Sick is that it runs fifteen-minutes longer than it needed to be. Multiple times in the third act I felt like the film was finally winding down and we were getting to the end, yet for multiple scenes, the film just keeps going with it still feeling like it was going to end. Those final scenes of the film, while important, could’ve easily been trimmed for the sake of brevity and just getting to the end credits. It’s strange how the final act just feels so drawn out from the rest of the film considering the impeccable flow to the narrative just before that, so I’m left confused as to why such a huge issue didn’t show up until right before the film ends; however that may have came to pass, it’s still not a gigantic issue in the overall scale of The Big Sick.

Beautiful, funny, heartbreaking, heartwarming, dramatic, and always intriguing, The Big Sick is the definitive romantic comedy of the twenty-tens and is something you have to see at your earliest convenience. Thankfully, for those locked up at home, The Big Sick is available to watch through Amazon Prime Video, since it is an Amazon Original! What on Earth are you waiting for?


Movie and TV Reviews for Diversity

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