There have been a lot of movies released in the first half of 2017. There will be a lot more movies released in the second half of 2017. It’s safe to say that none of them will be quite like The Big Sick, a heartfelt and deeply personal blend of comedy and drama that’s hit after hit.
I’m not going to waste any time here: The Big Sick is the best movie of 2017. We might only be halfway through the year, but I have no doubts that I’ll still be saying that in six months.
The Big Sick tells the story of the unconventional courtship of its writers, Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon. Nanjiani stars as himself, while Zoe Kazan plays Emily. The pair hit it off after Kumail performs a standup set, and their relationship quickly grows into something special—and something threatened as Kumail’s parents (Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff) attempt to put together an arranged marriage for Kumail. That problem was big enough, but Emily becomes incapacitated by a mysterious illness and needs to be put into a medically-induced coma.
Yeah. It’s heavy stuff. And it’s a true story.
Kumail works through the tragedy—and his family issues—with the help of Emily’s parents Beth and Terry (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano), though they were strangers before Emily’s coma. The story that follows is hilarious and poignant, simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming, as the three grow together while Kumail struggles with his cultural identity as a Muslim-adjacent man in America.
The movie simply wouldn’t work without a believable romance between Kumail and Emily, especially given Emily’s comatose state throughout the majority of the movie, and Nanjiani and Kazan are able to get there with what looks like minimal effort. Their unexpected relationship is believable from the start, and they play off each other well—both in their witty back and forth and in their more emotional moments. The importance Emily carries for Kumail is obvious from early on, and it easily pulls you in for the emotional ups and downs of waiting for Emily’s condition to improve.
Holly Hunter and Ray Romano each put in remarkable performances as Emily’s anxious, grief-stricken parents. There are layers to every interaction between Beth and Terry, with each actor expertly conveying the impact Emily’s condition has on an already strained relationship. It’s the way each of them plays off Kumail, though, both together and separately, that really makes the movie work. There’s a real human connection between each and every pairing of the film’s main characters, and seeing their relationships develop and grow on screen is simply captivating.
That’s not to say The Big Sick is lacking comedy, though. It has plenty of comedy. And then some. Whether you’re looking for chuckles, groans, awkward laughs, or massive fits of laughter, The Big Sick has what you want. Some of the film’s funniest moments are built around Nanjiani and Romano, but everybody gets a chance to pull a laugh or two. And with a supporting cast that features Aidy Bryant, Bo Burnham, and Kuirt Braunohler as Kumail’s standup crew, you wouldn’t expect anything less.
It wouldn’t be enough for The Big Sick to have big laughs—and it has them. It wouldn’t be enough for it to have real drama, which it has in spades. It wouldn’t be enough for the film to feature a world-class cast, which it does. With all of these elements in place, though, The Big Sick is even more than the sum of its already impressive parts. The Big Sick tackles its unique romance with the perfect mix of heart, wit and charm, and the world is better off for having it, and its writers, around.
The Big Sick is out now in limited release and launches nationwide on July 14. You should see it.