Sundance London: The Big Sick

The Big Sick
Directed by Michael Showalter
Written by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon
Starring Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Adeel Akhtar, Anupam Kher, Zenobia Shroff, Kurt Braunohler, Aidy Bryant, Vella Lovell and Bo Burnham
Screening at Sundance London June 3rd & 4th, 2017
Watch on iTunes

by Joanna Orland

Fans of Kumail Nanjiani are definitely going to like this film based on the comedian’s true-life love story with wife Emily V. Gordon. Written by the couple, produced by Judd Apatow and directed by Michael Showalter, The Big Sick follows Kumail as he deals with the dichotomy of honouring his Pakistani heritage while dating his white American girlfriend.

It has all the typical ingredients of a traditional rom-com – boy meets girl, girl breaks up with boy, boy wants girl back. But unlike most rom-coms, this story takes a serious turn as Emily ends up in hospital in a medically-induced coma while Kumail waits by her bedside, alongside her parents who he’s meeting for the first time. Kumail’s relationship with Emily’s parents has as much heart as the romantic element of the story. Initially cold to him, Emily’s father Terry (Ray Romano) and mother Beth (Holly Hunter) warm to Kumail as he shows his devotion to Emily and her family throughout this tough time. Ray Romano and Holly Hunter steal the show with performances that feel completely genuine and are filled with the right balance of comedy and emotion. I’ve not seen Romano outside of his beloved show Everybody Loves Raymond, and did not realize he was capable of the emotional range he demonstrates in The Big Sick. In fact, he probably gives the most honest performance of the film.

The cast alone is enough reason to see The Big Sick – from the opening credits, I knew that I would love this film. I’ve liked Kumail from the moment I saw his standout performance in Burning Love and have found him hilarious in everything since, notably¬†Portlandia and of course, Silicon Valley. Supporting performances from Aidy Bryant (SNL) and Bo Burnham ( yes….THE BO BURNHAM), while not a huge feature of the film, truly ground the film in the world of comedy and just put a smile on my face as I’m a big fan of both comedians. Zoe Kazan is perfectly cast as Emily, and while I can’t speak to how accurately she depicts the real Emily V. Gordon, Kazan brilliantly captures the spirit of Kumail’s love interest and is just very likable in her own right. Adeel Akhtar is another member of the cast worth mentioning – not given much to do in the role of Kumail’s brother, the award-winning British actor is still excellent in everything that he does.

While the ensemble cast brings a lot to the table, it is still Kumail Nanjiani’s movie through and through. His unique voice differentiates this film from other rom-coms, with his charm and comedic likability at the forefront. He may lack the emotional range of Romano and Hunter, but his charisma carries him, giving the film its heart and soul.

A true gem, The Big Sick is guaranteed to be a hit amongst existing Kumail Nanjiani fans, and it’s likely to garner him some new ones as well.


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