The Big Sick review: Kumail Nanjiani’s autobiographical courtship is a breath of rom-com fresh air

Jess Lester
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Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan's undeniable chemistry add to the honesty of this heartfelt romantic comedy
The Big Sick

Kumail Nanjiani’s autobiographical rom-com is a breath of fresh air for a genre in dire need of distinctive new voices.

Co-writer Nanjiani plays himself in this Judd Apatow produced tale about a Pakistani-American Uber driver and aspiring comedian struggling to juggle the demands of two cultural identities.

His parents, played by Bollywood stars Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff, are keen for their youngest son to marry, presenting him with a chain of Pakistani would-be brides in the hope he will agree to an arranged marriage that matches the success of his elder brother’s.

Whilst performing at the comedy club – supported by fellow real-life comedians Aidy Bryant, Bo Burnham and Kurt Braunohler – a budding romance forms between Kumail and white-American student Emily, played by the peppy Zoe Kazan. After their relationship comes to an unexpected end, Emily is hospitalised and put into a medically-induced coma; despite their recent break-up, Nanjiani finds himself navigating this experience alongside Emily’s parents, who, with their hilarious lack of chemistry and mismatched personalities, are the film’s comic highlight.

The Big Sick confounds the usual rom-com trajectory, deftly weaving in commentary on cultural integration alongside jokes about the problematic reality of the modern romance scene. There’s a tangible warmth to both the romantic and familial relationships, topped off by a career-best performance by Nanjani.

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