It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen a really good romcom. Even just the term ‘romcom’ has probably made a good proportion of you switch off, bringing to mind Katherine Heigl or Anne Hathaway playing clumsy women who work with cakes falling for expensively jumpered B-list men who are extremely wealthy but, like, so normal. The Big Sick is a reminder of what a great romcom should be: the story of two people who are excellent on their own but even better together.
Based on the real-life relationship of comedian Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) and Emily V Gordon, a writer and producer, ‘The Big Sick’ actually has the fundamentals of a pretty depressing story. Kumail (Nanjiani, playing himself) is a Muslim Pakistani-American whose parents want him to marry a girl from the same background. Barely observant of his religion, Kumail just dates who he wants and doesn’t tell his parents. He finds someone special in Emily (Zoe Kazan), but his refusal to tell his family about her drives them apart.
This issue is dwarfed when Emily becomes ill and is put into a coma. Kumail stays at Emily’s bedside, with her parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, being an absolute treat), getting to know more about her and feeling closer to her, while her feelings are on pause.
There’s a lot of blackness there from which to find humour and ‘The Big Sick’ mines enormous amounts. Before things get weird, it establishes loveable characters, which lets it go to dark places without losing the warmth. Both Nanjiani and Kazan are adorable but not sickly, and the film doesn’t treat Kumail as some hero for ‘sticking by’ his sick not-quite-girlfriend. It plays with the shiver of creepiness in his courtship of someone unconscious, and there are consequences to his lying to everyone, as there should be. It carries all this weight – plus the politics of being Muslim in Trump’s America – like it’s featherlight, with frequent belly laughs. It’s brilliant. Easily the funniest comedy of the year so far.