It may surprise you to learn that I actually really like romantic comedies. Well, I like good romantic comedies, of which I think there are very few. And while there is certainly nothing wrong with liking more generic romantic comedies, I want more from a genre that has the potential—but often fails—to reflect the awkwardness of the great mystery that is “falling in love.”
The Big Sick is a romantic comedy that is definitely not a “by-the-numbers” films. It follows a young, second generation, American Muslim named Kumail (played by rising star Kumail Nanjiani). In the film (also written by Kimail and his wife) we are taken along the fictionalized journey of their real-life love story… at least the framework of it.
It’s that framework that really provides the heart of the film. Kumail is not only trying to woo a woman that he is growing to love, but he is also doing it while trying to reconcile his own family’s culture with his current existence of growing up in America. Meanwhile, he has to navigate regret and pain with his girlfriend’s parents (played magnificently by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter) in a situation that provides enough drama it could carry most movies on its own.
It’s the questions of culture that really had me intrigued. Kimail’s parents are caring, involved (maybe too involved), and concerned. They are relatable, though not faultless. We can empathize with them. As a parent, you may be asking yourself what practices and expectations you’re putting on your own children. To think this is only a problem with the Muslim faith or cultural practices of arranged marriages would be missing the point. All religions tend to do this, and the lessons can be learned when we examine ourselves and our practices. What do we do, say, or accept as Christians that is not really “Christian”? What do we associate with a tenant of Christianity that is simply a Western, cultural way of doing things? I truly believe if you visited Christians in a different nation, you would begin to question why you assumed some things were ever considered “Christian” to begin with. It’s quite the thought experiment (or experience if you’ve had the chance to travel outside the country). By providing a cast of highly empathetic characters from various backgrounds, The Big Sick is a great starting point for just such a conversation.
But, I don’t want to give too much away. I will say that the movie is sincere and is even more compelling thinking about the fact that it’s based on a real-life love story. It should keep you laughing throughout while also hitting you right in the feels on more than one occasion. It’s near the top of my “favorites of the year” list and I think it will be on yours as well.