The Real-Life Magic Behind ‘The Big Sick’

Anyone who knows me has probably heard me raving about The Big Sick by now and I don’t really have an excuse - it just is THAT good. It not only has a very funny (Pakistani!) lead actor -  it has an engaging love story built on friendly banter and witty one-liners, added to the amazingly funny supporting cast. But even taking all of this into account, there is one key factor that makes the movie so great: it was based on real-life events – as we find out when the credits start rolling.

Here’s the plot (for those of you who have not seen it yet): The Big Sick follows the love story of Kumail, an aspiring comedian, and Emily, a psychology student. The two meet at one of the protagonist’s comedy gigs and end up sleeping together (which, eventually, leads to a relationship). However, their relationship is not smooth sailing. Kumail’s Pakistani background implies that he will have to find a Pakistani woman in order to marry within his community, or his parents will disown him. His mother has taken control of his romantic life, constantly setting him up on blind dates and when Emily learns what is going on – they break up. Things get even more complicated for the couple when, after the break-up, Kumail gets a call from one of Emily’s friends telling him she is very sick and he has to make the decision of putting her in a medically induced coma to save her life.

The writers of the screenplay were the real-life couple; the main actor, Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, Emily Gordon. Despite their decision to adapt their crazy love story into a film, they decided to add some new elements to make the plot more appealing and romantic comedy-like. Let’s take a look at the way the plot of the movie differs from the real-life story:

#1 The characters meet under the same circumstances –

The aspiring comedian was “woohoo-ed” by his future wife during a comedy gig, as it is shown in the movie. However, whilst in the movie Kumail goes up to her after the set is finished, in real life they met for the first time two days after the incident.

#2 They kept the “2 date rule” –

Despite being a plot that most would consider unrealistic, the actual couple came up with the idea that they could not see each other more than two days in a row at the beginning of their relationship.

#3 The real Emily was not divorced –

Real life Emily met Kumail when she was separated from her first husband, and still deciding upon filing for divorce or getting back together.

#4 They were not broken up when Emily was put into a coma –

Apparently, the couple added that part into the movie to add more drama. In the words of real life Emily Gordon "It's interesting to be at your casual girlfriend's side when she gets sick. But it's even more interesting to be at your recent ex-girlfriend's side."

#5 Kumail did not know Emily’s parents before the incident… but they were not at all like their on-screen counterparts –

Having met only once before (and briefly), Nanjiani was a stranger to his girlfriend’s parents while she was in the hospital.

However, the personality (and plotline) of her parents could not be further away from reality. Their eccentric personalities were added in order to add more drama into the plot. The lead actor has stated that he wanted to divide the movie into two romantic comedies: one with his girlfriend and one with the parents.

#6 Kumail’s parents were upset he had a white girlfriend –

His parents believed in the Pakistani tradition of marrying a person inside their own culture. Even though real-life Nanjiani did tell his parents about his girlfriend’s situation in the hospital, after her release they showed their disappointment.

#7 The protagonist realized he wanted to marry his wife while she was in a coma –

Even though this is not shown in the movie, they got married just a month after she was released from the hospital.

However crucial real life events were to the plot of the movie, I think it is a common feeling to empathize more with a story once we are told it was based on real life events. It helps make horror films feel scarier, comedy films less crazy and love stories (like this one) more real.  Once again, I will recommend the film to everyone – rom-com fans or not – just to see how crazy and movie-like life can be sometimes. After all, sometimes life does imitate art.