Review: The Big Sick

Kumail Nanjiani in concert

This might be the only review of the movie The Big Sick that talks more about the “sick” than the point of the film, which is clashing cultures learning to get along. 

The romantic comedy is based on the true-life courtship of comedian Kumail Nanjiani, a transplanted Pakistani living in the US, and the American grad student he starts dating. (He recently hosted SNL) There are cultural chasms between them and on his end, major family expectations. Their courtship includes a couple of fresh sleepover situations that are laugh-out-loud funny. It’s not easy to present something an audience hasn’t seen in the romantic comedy genre, but Nanjiani and producer Judd Apatow (40-year-old Virgin, Knocked Up, Bridesmaids, This is 40) have done it. It’s a cute little flick that goes from funny to dark to funny again.

Darkness comes when the couple has a blowout fight and she – Emily – becomes critically ill. Doctors put her in a medically-induced coma while they struggle to save her life. This puts Kumail in the hospital for several days with Emily’s middle-class American parents whom he has never met. Meanwhile, his family keeps trying to marry him off and he worries that he’s going to lose the love of his life having never made up with her. Did I mention that this is a true story?

Here’s my problem. It’s clear to anyone who knows, that Emily had sepsis. Kumail even mentions to the doctor at one point that she had a foot injury and wonders if that could be related to her critical state. “No, not at all”, is the reply. Classic. Overlooking sepsis is typically how someone dies from sepsis. Meantime the first round of antibiotics isn’t working and infections are claiming her organs one by one. It looks terrible for Emily before it finally looks good again. Once she’s well, someone admits that the foot injury is where the entire ordeal began. Again, sepsis!

I sure wish someone had said sepsis.

Art is art and however Nanjiani wanted to tell his own story is up to him. I’m betting 99.999% of viewers of this movie wouldn’t even notice that a specific illness wasn’t mentioned. They’d just heave a sigh of relief that Emily recovered. I did too but I couldn’t help noticing the omission. If it had been cancer someone would have said cancer. Heart attack, stroke, a general sense of ennui…they would have been said aloud. As a survivor of sepsis, I only ask for equal time, not a long, educational monologue about it, just the word. Once.

I gravitate toward anything that features stand-up comedy. The Big Sick also stars Ray Romano and Holly Hunter as Emily’s parents and they are both typically terrific. It’s a sweet little flick and it’s On Demand with Bell right now.

1 thought on “Review: The Big Sick”

  1. Thanks for this insightful perspective – I totally get where you’re coming from. I have wanted to see this movie and you’ve nudged me to do that this weekend. Thank you – and enjoy your extra hour’s sleep this weekend. You’ve earned it like no one I know.

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