Simon Dillon reviews the fact-based romantic comedy drama.

The Big Sick

Last night I finally managed to catch up with The Big Sick, a fact-based romantic comedy drama which hasn't done great business (in the UK at least). This is a shame, since The Big Sick is funny, touching and even has a timely, Trump-baiting undercurrent condemning American racism.

The plot concerns Pakistan-born stand-up comic Kumail Nanjiani (playing himself) and student Emily Gardner (Zoe Kazan). They fall in love but hit the inevitable objections of Kumail's parents, who want him to arrange his marriage to a Pakistani girl. This obstacle is complicated further when Emily contracts a mysterious illness and has to be placed in a medically induced coma. At this point, Kumail finally meets Emily's parents, slowly forms a close bond with them, and gains the courage to face down his parents regarding his feelings for Emily.

Nanjiani is great and Kazan brings genuine charm and warmth to her role (all the more remarkable given that she spends much of the film in a coma). The supporting roles are equally excellent. Adeel Akhtar is hilarious as Kumail's older brother Naveed, and Holly Hunter steals all her scenes as Emily's mother Beth, particularly in a stand-out confrontation with a racist heckler during one of Kumail's comedy sets.

Speaking of racism, this is not a heavy, preachy film by any means. The racism Kumail encounters is shrugged off as absurd, and the film is all the more effective for it. Indeed, although this cannot possibly have been foreseen by director Michael Showalter, at times The Big Sick feels like a weary, incredulous head-shake at Trump's anti-Muslim policies.

Ultimately though, this isn't a political film at all. It's a winning romantic story (albeit one which requires the usual warnings for strong language and sexual references) told with wit, warmth and honesty. It's perhaps a bit too long and baggy in places, and it does have a certain predictability, but all things considered, The Big Sick does that wonderful, audience pleasing thing of giving the viewer what they want, but not the way they expect. CR

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