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The Big Sick - DVD Review

The Big Sick

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

JUDD Apatow has directed some of the best comedies of recent years. He now produces another gem in the form of The Big Sick, a romantic comedy-drama that was inspired by its leading man’s own life experiences.

Yet far from being the out-and-out laughter-fest that some reviews suggest, this also tugs at the heart-strings in a surprisingly endearing way, while probing attitudes to race that should resonate for everyone.

Co-written by Pakistani-American stand-up and actor Kumail Nanjiani and white comedy writer-producer Emily V Gordon, upon whose lives the story is based, The Big Sick follows the fortunes of Kumail, a part-time Uber driver and stand-up hopeful, who is also attempting to resist his family’s desire to set-up an arranged marriage.

When he finds himself being heckled one night by an audience member named Emily (Zoe Kazan), Kumail inadvertently becomes attracted to her and the two share a night of passion, which in turn leads to an unlikely friendship and relationship.

But as Kumail becomes increasingly reluctant to introduce Emily to his family, for fear of being cut off, the ensuing romance gets strained. And then Emily falls ill and is placed into a coma as the doctors attempt to find out what is wrong with her.

Much like Apatow’s own Funny People, The Big Sick starts out light and breezy, only to detour into more serious drama once the main characters are forced to confront a medical emergency.

In this case, however, the story is given greater poignancy by the knowledge that much of what unfolds on screen is real.

It’s a tribute to the way the characters have been written, and subsequently played by both Nanjiani and Kazan, that you’ll be rooting for them throughout, while also going on the emotional highs and lows that come with their romance as a whole.

Nanjiani and Gordon aren’t afraid to confront the race issues inherent in the story, exploring certain prejudices from the perspectives of all concerned and making for a much more balanced world-view than some films allow.

Yet, while also poking fun at certain stereotypes (right down to the lazy view of all Muslims as terrorists), Nanjiana and Gordon show they have a sense of humour too, thereby preventing the film from ever feeling either cynical or preachy. Rather, it earns your outrage (particularly during one racially inspired heckle) and your laughs.

Nanjiani and Kazan also work well together as a couple, infusing their characters with a flesh and blood feel that makes them as flawed, and thereby prone to serious errors of judgement, as they are loveable.

But they’re well supported by a top-quality ensemble, including Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff as Kumail’s overly traditional parents, and Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, as Emily’s at-first sceptical but eventually welcoming parents.

Michael Showalter’s direction doesn’t toss in any grand-standing comedic moments, preferring to let things unfold in an almost natural, fly-on-the-wall kind of way. Hence, while short on genuinely laugh-out loud moments, The Big Sick keeps you amused throughout, while simultaneously making you think and care about what’s going on.

The result is a charming experience that succeeds as a romantic comedy on its own terms – one that has more substance and less fluff than most films of its type.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 2hrs
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: November 20, 2017