Kumail Nanjiani wrote the script for The Big Sick with his real-life Anglo wife, Emily Gordon, and then starred in the subsequent film about a Pakistani comedian in Chicago. And it’s hilarious; in fact, it’s the funniest film I’ve seen this year.
Kumail as Kumail is trying to figure out who he is as a comic, and as a Pakistani. His mother is pressuring him to marry a good Muslim, Pakistani woman; when he meets Emily Gardner (Zoe Kazan), he falls hard, against both of their understandings of common sense. But what follows is real love, forged in the flames of family squabbles, work, and illness.
While Kumail’s family ends up being noticeably bothered by Kumail’s choice in women, Emily’s parents, Beth and Terry (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano), get a crash course in Kumail after Emily gets hospitalized after Kumail and Emily broke up. Complicating things, Beth knows that Emily was angry with Kumail before she fell into a coma; Kumail has to work through his still present feelings for Emily while also handling her parents.
While so many films attempt to artificially keep their star-crossed protagonists apart, The Big Sick’s use of the coma allows some interesting situations between Kumail and Emily’s parents. We see questions about a lover who left their daughter hurting; we experience some real-life conversations between a white American and a Muslim post-9/11. Through it all, we have an entertaining take from the deadpan Kumail. It’s heartbreaking and hilarious, sometimes all at once.
In one soul-cutting scene, Kumail tells his parents that he means them no disrespect but that he has no use for their rules, their Islam. He says that it just doesn’t make sense to him, and that he’s been playing video games while they think he’s been going through the rituals in the basement. He sees their Muslim intentions in wanting him to marry a Muslim, but he challenges them that they moved to America so he could experience America – so how do their Muslim beliefs jive with American ideals?
Honestly, as a pastor, this was chilling – even as I listened to the response in regards to Islam – because I think it’s a telling criticism of Protestant Christianity in America. Too often, our children have heard that our faith is about the rules, about what we’re against, instead of hearing about what we’re for. When we fail to make our faith applicable to what our children see about the world, we’ve failed to truly share the gospel. When we put them in a position where they can’t distinguish between the culture and the message, then we’ve failed to hear God move over time. Either way, those failures are an indictment on us, as people of faith.
Special featurws on this Lionsgate Blu-ray combo include the personal journey of the couple who made it, the 2017 SXSW panel, the commentary by cast and crew, deleted scenes, and a bonus roll of laughs.