REVIEW: At last, a rom-com that breaks free of the clichés

Holly Hunter as Beth, Ray Romano as Terry and Kumail Nanjiani as Kumail
Holly Hunter as Beth, Ray Romano as Terry and Kumail Nanjiani as Kumail

Matt Adcock reviews The Big Sick (15)

Welcome to a new kind of rom-com, a brilliant, cutting and genuinely funny true life story that goes something like this:

Boy - Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani playing himself!), meets girl - Emily (Zoe Kazan) and they fall in love. But they break up because he comes from a strict Muslim practising Pakistani family who believe he must marry a girl from his culture and of their choosing. No sooner have they split though when a sudden mystery illness forces Emily to be put into a medically-induced coma which she may not survive.

OK so it doesn’t sound very funny but Kumail being a wannabe stand-up comedian (although he tells his parents he’s training to be a lawyer) brings a winning comedy element. Director Michael Showalter brings witty humour to bear on what is a potentially tragic situation but also doesn’t short-change the drama of what’s going on. As viewers watching the events unfold it is totally engaging and helped by the two leads sparking real chemistry and being genuinely charming.

Superb support is thrown in by Emily’s parents, Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano), who arrive at the hospital to support their daughter and find that they can’t get Kumail to leave her side, despite technically not actually being her boyfriend any more. The awkward bonding that takes place between these people thrown together by such sad circumstances is a joy to behold and you’ll be hard-hearted person not to be moved by their interactions.

The Big Sick breaks free of many of the romantic comedy drama genre clichés, and refreshingly doesn’t rely on shock crudeness or slapstick knockabout laughs. All the cast are great - Kumail’s family bring additional unexpected comedy value with a sub plot involving the series of potential suitable wives they have ‘drop in’ to meet him. The script crackles with poignant dark humour that include references to 9/11 and a scene where Kumail gets heckled by a racist frat boy.

The comedy club scenes provide a good backdrop to the main drama but it is the unlikely core love story that drives this tale and there are many bonus life observations to pick up along the way.

The Big Sick is one of the funniest films of the year and deserves to be seen on a big screen.