The Big Sick: When Comedy Met Reality

The Big Sick is a 2017 film starring and co-written by Kumail Nanjiani about how he met his wife, Emily V. Gordon (who also co-wrote the script).

It is a fantastic film that shows a unique story of two people from different cultures and how their relationship progresses.

It’s unique in that it feels like a real story. The events seem like something that could actually happen (and did happen for the most part). The movie does not have any contrived romance movie cliches. There’s no “misunderstanding” and the leads aren’t kept apart in a forced “Romeo and Juliet” trope.

The comedy is also hilarious. I won’t spoil any jokes, so even if you don’t like romance movies, I would urge people to see it just for the comedy aspect.

Plot Summary: Culture, Comedy, Romance, and the Big Sick

The Big Sick is a movie based on the true story of how Kumail Nanjiani met his wife Emily V. Gordon. Kumail is credited as a co-writer along with Emily, and stars as himself as a struggling stand up comic who drives for Uber to make ends meet.

He meets Emily at the comedy club he does gigs at, they form a relationship, and things take off from there.


The story is mostly about Kumail and his journey to becoming his own person, gaining a sense of his own identity outside of his strict Pakistani Muslim upbringing, and coming to terms with being mature enough to be with Emily.

Emily doesn’t really change. She falls into a medically induced coma and is out for about 3/4 of the movie. She’s still a great character and plays off Kumail perfectly. Both actors have great chemistry and banter moments.

The Best Parts of the Big Sick – Writing a True Story

The best parts of the Big Sick are the comedic and the human moments. What I love about this movie is that the characters are written so realistically. They’re obviously based on real people in real situations, but veteran movie-goers know that many “based on true story” plots can be very forced and have one-dimensional characters just like any other movie.

Writing a story based on true events isn’t as easy as it looks. Some may think “but you can just write what happened! There! You’re Done!”

Yeah, no you’re not.

Not all true life events are going to be interesting enough to make for a good movie. Writers have to compensate for this and either exaggerate or just make stuff up to keep an audience’s attention.

Think about how often you exaggerate or stretch the truth to make a story you’re telling a friend to keep their attention. If you told your friend that there was a lady in a line in front of you who was kinda rude to the cashier, that wouldn’t be very interesting. Instead, you may go into a lot more detail and exaggerate some things, like whether or not the rude lady was swearing, yelling, or throwing stuff, etc.

Adding details like that to a true event story makes the situation feel more real, and it helps the listener picture the situation in their head and place themselves in it. If they can place themselves in the story, they can become more invested.

In the Big Sick, I can’t say what events may or may not have been exaggerated for the sake of storytelling since I wasn’t there when Kumail and Emily’s story actually happened in reality. However, that doesn’t mean that each scene doesn’t feel like a real scenario I can imagine happening in real life.

That’s how you know you’ve done a “True Story” right, when it’s accurate and feels like a believable story that people can get invested in.

True stories are tricky in general, but the best ones represent the majority of the truth and still leave a small bit up to interpretation. Truth is stranger than fiction for a reason. Life can be interpreted in many different ways just like movies or any story that you hear.

Kumail and his real-life wife, Emily

A “When Harry Met Sally” Feel

I would compare this movie to Rob Reiner’s When Harry Met Sally. Both movies have a laid back, funny, realistic storytelling structure and tone.

Both feature strong characters, great comedy, and story lines without main villains that feel like they could happen to anyone.

If you’re a fan of romantic comedies, or movies with strong plot lines and characters in general, I would highly recommend the Big Sick.

It’s going on my list of favorite movies of 2017!


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