The Big Sick, a film about a Pakistani immigrant whose American girlfriend suddenly gets a mysterious illness, sounds ripe for heavy-handed political messaging. But the screenplay deftly dodges more hackneyed plotlines and themes, perhaps because it was based on the real lives of writer Emily Gordon and her husband, Kumail Nanjiani, who stars as a character closely based on himself.
The Big Sick avoids over-the-top commentary on the U.S. health care system and treats issues surrounding immigration and interracial relationships as matters of human, not political, interest. At its heart, the film is a coming-to-America story in which Nanjiani struggles to balance his desires with his family's traditional ways.
In one crucial scene, the protagonist asks his parents, who want him to marry a Muslim girl, why they bothered to move to the U.S. and make so many sacrifices if all they wanted was to hold on to all their old customs. Nanjiani's own preferences win out, revealing the power of the American individualist idea that people can become whatever they want to be, no matter where they came from.