One thing I like to do before watching a movie is avoid watching the trailer. If I had watched the trailer for this movie I would have thought it was another one of your run-of-the-mill rom-coms. But this one is so unconventional, and not just for the obvious reasons. To call it a “rom-com” seems ill-fitted even though it really is a romantic comedy. Can I just say, first of all, how freaking cool would it be to write a movie about yourself and then star in it?!
What I find separates this to a conventional rom-com is that it’s almost as if the more important relationship that blossoms is not actually between Kumail and Emily, but instead between Kumail and Emily’s parents, AND as a ripple effect from that, the relationships between Emily’s parents themselves, Kumail and his parents, and eventually Kumail and Emily.
What worries me the most about how people might react to this film is that they might not understand why his family is the way it is. I am not saying people would be ignorant or uncultured, but I truly believe it would be so hard to wrap your head around his parents’ reasoning for basically disowning him.
Take it from me, a Filipino girl whose devout Catholic parents moved to Australia for a better life but are still so attached to their ancient, strict, Catholic Filipino culture, and I am in love with an Australian man! My life is basically a watered down version of Kumail’s, and I still find it hard to not think his parents are being unreasonable. If I didn’t relate to Kumail so much, I would probably think the way his parents were portrayed was a wild overreaction and that that just does not happen in real life. But it does!
One thing I found a little bit hard to believe was their reason for breaking up in the first place. It just wasn’t enough. I thought that it was just a heat-of-the-moment fight, not that they would break up over that.
Again, I personally went through a watered down version of this. While my parents preferred I married a Filipino man, it was forgivable if I didn’t, but there was absolutely no way I was “allowed” to marry a man who was not Catholic. My boyfriend is Catholic, but he is the kind of Catholic who was baptised as a baby and that’s about as religious as he gets. We were three months into our relationship before I told my parents about him, and not once did he even worry about the fact that I was keeping him a secret from my family, because he understood. He understood that even if you are a grown adult, parents are still going to be strict and sometimes scary. Emily did give Kumail a chance to explain but it seemed to have gone in one ear and out the other. She doesn’t understand that it’s just not that simple.
Kumail’s relationship with Emily’s parents, especially her mother, was just the absolute best part! She was being such a bitch to Kumail, as per the protective-motherly rule of disliking anyone who hurts your daughter, and then she did a 180 and straight up defended Kumail from a racist heckler at one of his stand-up shows. It totally humanised her, made her a real, complex human being. And the way she turned into an excited little kid when Emily woke up from her coma…
There needs to be more characters like her in movies. Not just people who are evil simply because they are evil. You can’t have the good guy as always and only a good guy the whole time, nor the bad guy only ever being bad. To make them real everyone has to have a bit of a shitty moment or a sweet moment and it shouldn’t be unusual for that character, it should just be one mood in a whole spectrum of emotions.
The overlapping dialogue makes the conversations real. We often forget that real life doesn’t play like he-said-this-then-she-said-that. This is what I love the most about The Big Sick. Everything is so real. The characters are real. The premise is real and very relevant to second generation (or other) kids from traditional families growing up in the modern western world. I want to forget that I am watching a movie – I want to see reality.
This film recently popularised a conversation about the lack of brown women in films. I find that the topic was raised for the wrong reason, seeing as it is based on a true story and I don’t believe there is any “discrimination” here by having a white girl as the female lead – it drives the story. But it does bring forward a true and important issue. This has been something I’ve had a problem with for a long time since I dreamed of being an actress as a young girl and found it difficult to not just be cast as a character who didn’t have a nationality specified, but also to even be typecast because of the fact that there is just no demand for brown-skinned South-East Asian females.
By all means, start the conversation about this – let’s finally have real diversity in the screen industry – but don’t use this film as a platform for this argument. Really just take any film with a white female lead where the nationality has nothing to do with the story.
Anyway. The Big Sick was a big plus for me. Seeing a non-Hollywood romantic comedy on the big screen is refreshing.