The Big Sick

If you elect to see only one movie this year, this is it.

The Big SickWrite this down and preserve it for future reference. The Big Sick, directed by Michel Showalter and co-produced by Judd Apatow, is the best movie to be released up to this point in 2017.

It is funny, emotional, creative and wonderfully romantic. On top of that, tears of joy repeatedly ran down my aging cheeks. This is one of those movies that you will never forget.

The film tells the real-life story of the personal relationship of Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon, who wrote this brilliant script. To his everlasting credit, Mr. Nanjiani plays himself, here known by his actual name. A native of Pakistan who is working to build a career as a stand-up comic, he develops a relationship with Emily, a young woman who was in the audience watching his performance. While love follows, these two wonderful souls find that it is not always a many splendored thing.

First and foremost, Zoe Kazan gives a sensational performance as Emily, a feisty graduate student studying to be a therapist. Her intelligence only feeds a wicked sense of humor. For example, when she accompanies Kumail home after their first encounter where they have sex, she rejects his attempts for an encore with the statement, “I’m not that type of girl. I only have sex one time on the first date.”

Nonetheless, trouble looms in the form of  Nanjiani’s powerful parents, played by Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff. They are both traditional Pakistani Muslims, and they are dedicated to making sure that Nanjiani marries a Pakistani girl. In the process, Nanjiani’s regular dinner visits with his parents inevitably includes an alleged surprise visit by an eligible Pakistani girl.

While the stress leads to a break in the relationship of our two lovers, trauma follows when Emily is hospitalized and induced into a coma to treat her as yet unknown condition. Wait until you see Nanjiani’s interaction with Emily’s parents at the hospital. Played in unbelievable fashion by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, there are repeated moments that will make you laugh almost as hard you cry.

Emily’s parents are as heartsick over her condition as they are troubled by the presence of what they perceive to be a Pakistani ex-boyfriend. The script reaches an Oscar-worthy level in numerous scenes, not the least of which is the moment when Mr. Romano asks Nanjiani his opinion on 9-11. His response is likely to become part of movie memorabilia.

This film has a powerful emotional impact that you will embrace from beginning to end. It is a gripping love story about two young people trying to overcome class and racial divisions that pulse through our national culture to this very day. Families pass judgment as much as strangers. To put it another way, try to bring a Pakstani Muslim home to meet mom and dad.

This tenacious little film has a number of supporting actors who add to the movie’s rhythm which includes Bo Burnham, Aidy Bryant, Kurt Braun and Adeel Akhtar. Yet the film belongs to Mr. Nanjiani and Ms. Kazan as they play emotionally battered lovers who try to overcome multiple obstacles in their journey to find a way back into each others’ arms.