‘The Big Sick’ Review: A Love Story So Unbelievable, It Has to Be True

Drew Dietsch
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of 5
Review Essentials
  • Believable characters
  • Fantastic cast
  • A true romance story
  • Funny and honest
  • Drama gets a little heightened
  • One big plot point you have to buy

Comedian Kumail Nanjiani plays himself and tells the story of how he met his eventual wife, Emily (played by Zoe Kazan). It’s tough for Kumail to be completely honest with Emily at first; his strictly Muslim family wants him to marry a woman of the same faith. When things come to a head between Kumail and Emily, they separate for a while until an unexpected turn in Emily’s life thrusts Kumail into a new relationship with Emily’s parents.

Characters You Love

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Emily (Zoe Kazan) and Kumail (himself) are adorable together

Romantic comedies are a dime a dozen. It takes something special to turn the genre on its head and deliver something you haven’t seen before. Thankfully, The Big Sick does that and more. It probably helps that the story is a true one.

Heart is something that a lot of movies struggle with. It’s easy for many films to come across as artificial and saccharine. The Big Sick circumvents this problem thanks to two big factors: it’s nature as a true story and its incredible cast. Kumail Nanjiani, best known for his aloof nerdiness on Silicon Valley, takes his life’s story seriously and puts in a performance that will have you in tears by the end, both from laughing and crying. Zoe Kazan matches his passion and brings an uncompromising reality to Emily that breaks the mold of usual rom-com female leads.

Not to mention you’ve got Ray Romano and Holly Hunter playing Emily’s parents, and the two are as great as they’ve ever been. Romano’s deadpan delivery is infused with a simple sweetness that makes the best out of his particular skill set. And Holly Hunter? Her character is possibly the most moving of the entire film. And wait until you see her take on a heckler at a stand-up show. It’s incredible.

So much of the movie rests on the shoulders of these characters and they balance it marvelously. A failing of rom-coms is often that the characters don’t feel believable. They either seem too rich to be unhappy, too gorgeous to be lonely, or too clever for their own good. The Big Sick captures what actual romance feels like. Again, that’s certainly bolstered by being based on actual events, but it’s refreshing to get such authenticity from a film genre that’s often criticized for being phony.

There Is a Twist…

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Emily's parents, Terry (Ray Romano) and Beth (Holly Hunter) don't exactly warm to Kumail at first

Of course, the movie does have to succumb to some moments of elevated drama. They are few and far between so it never derails the natural vibe that the movie is going for. Some viewers might find those moments to be a little incongruous, and that’s something to consider. Still, it’s not such a problem that it ever threatens to take the movie into pure schmaltz territory.

It would be easy to appraise the film in that way because of the huge twist the film takes around the halfway point. It’s not really a spoiler since it actually happened in real life, but if you want to stay completely in the dark, just stop here and go see the movie.

So, Emily becomes sick and is put into a medically-induced coma. It sounds like a soap opera storyline but it really happened and The Big Sick treats the event and fallout appropriately. If you can’t get over that element of the story, the movie probably isn’t going to work for you. Otherwise, it’s a slam dunk.

Is The Big Sick Good?

big sick kumail emily couple

It’s an utter delight that mines the right kinds of humor, drama, and romance out of such a personal story. If you can’t get over the one big plot point, it may not click with you, but that’s the only potential wrinkle in an otherwise perfect picture. Need a chuckle, a cry, and to feel a little uplifted? Then make a point to go see The Big Sick.

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