Fans of Silicon Valley most definitely didn’t expect the impressive emotional depth Kumail Nanjiani, known on the show as the computer coder Dinesh, could bring to the big screen. And yet, Nanjiani makes The Big Sick a truly special romcom, delivering a performance that makes you laugh, cry, and at times, get stuck doing both.
An autobiographical story based on the real-life romance between writers (and star) Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, Emily Gordon, the film explores the circumstances behind their relationship after one fateful night of stand-up comedy. The story takes the viewer on a surprisingly humorous but deeply striking journey as Kumail and Emily, played by Zoe Kazan in the film, turn their one-night stand into something much more meaningful, complicating matters for Kumail as he tries to imagine a future involving both Emily and his very traditional Muslim parents. Indian legend Anupam Kher plays his father wonderfully. When Emily falls ill to an unknown disease after a bad break up and Kumail is forced to consent in bringing her into a medically induced-coma, he begins reevaluating what his cultural identity and his relationship with Emily truly mean to him.
The film, which premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival to great success, explores Kumail’s relationship with his comedy career, his family, and Emily as she lays unconscious in a hospital, staying with him as he meets Emily’s parents and sticking with him through the numerous comedy shows and all the arranged dates with Pakistani women his parents set him up with.
The strength of the story lies in these relationships Kumail builds over the course of the film; the time spent with Emily’s parents, Terry and Beth, played marvelously by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, give Kamail the backbone he needs to pursue his goals, amounting to a climax in which he finally decides what direction he truly wants to take his life. Perhaps it is a huge spoiler that Emily Gordon is both married and alive and well today, but viewing Kumail’s journey on screen as it hits all the right emotional beats is truly a worthwhile experience.
This cultural crisis Kumail experiences in the film is equally well developed and entwined with the rest of the film, as it breathes down his neck at nearly every turn. The film is able to ask all sorts of questions regarding Kumail’s immigrant experience and cultural identity in an American society, particularly one of a different religion, taking care to showcase the batch of comedy Nanjiani is known for as a comedian today and how he’s developed it up to this point. His struggle also showcases the strength of familial love beautifully throughout the film, noting that despite differences, bonds in a family are never truly broken.
In the end, however, it’s the bond between Kumail and Emily that’s on full display. A relationship that weathered and triumphed over some huge problem is not an original plotline for a romantic comedy movie by any means, but The Big Sick manages to take that formula and showcase a genuinely special bond between Emily and Nanjiani — one that has truly overcome all odds.
The film is now playing.