The Big Sick

Movie review by
Betsy Bozdech, Common Sense Media
The Big Sick Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Thoughtful romantic dramedy has swearing, drinking, sex.
  • R
  • 2017
  • 119 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

You have to be honest and fight for what you love and believe in, even when it's hard -- especially when it's hard. Questioning tradition and family expectations isn't easy, but you shouldn't go along with them just to avoid rocking the boat. Commitment means working through the bad/difficult stuff and not running away when things get challenging. Communication is important.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Kumail initially takes little responsibility for himself/his life, preferring to avoid conflict and anything difficult. But he learns the importance of commitment and honesty/integrity, which leads him to stand up for what he believes/cares about. Emily is a bit of a "manic pixie dreamgirl" cliche, but she also challenges Kumail and helps him grow/grow up. Her parents are flawed but ultimately loving and well intentioned; Kumail's parents clearly love their son but are also bound by tradition. At one point his mother talks negatively about a mixed-race baby within their extended Pakistani family. The cast is a fairly even mix of white characters and those of Pakistani descent.


Couples argue and hurl insults during fights. Some potentially upsetting scenes of a main character very ill in the hospital. A character gets loud and belligerent at a comedy club.


Characters hook up after a first date; they cuddle in bed and kiss and are then shown partially naked under bedding -- sex is discussed but not shown. A character in underwear gets dressed under a blanket. One character tells another about his infidelity. Crass jokes/sexual terms (including references to a "hand job," testicles, semen, orgasms, etc.).


Frequent swearing/strong language, including "f--k," "motherf---er," "d--k," "s--t," "bulls--t," "a--hole," "bitch," "prick," "boner," "t-tties," "crap," "sucks," "stupid," "oh my God," "Christ," and "Jesus" (as exclamations). Testicles, semen, and orgasms are mentioned. A heckler makes racist comments to a stand-up comic.


The main character is an Uber driver. Coca-Cola, Red Bull, iPhones, and Mac laptops are seen. References to Facebook, Tumblr, The X-Files, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, scary movies, etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

It's implied that a comedy club manager does cocaine in the bathroom. Characters drink wine, whiskey, and shots at bars/restaurants and at home; in one scene, three main characters get drunk together (one falls asleep/passes out).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Big Sick is based on writer/star Kumail Nanjiani's real-life love story with his wife, Emily. It's a romantic comedy, but it's also a thoughtful, mature drama about relationships, commitment, cultural traditions, and learning to be honest with yourself and others. Expect lots of strong language (including "f--k," "s--t," and more), as well as sometimes-crass sexual references and situations; characters hook up/make out, and sex is implied (but there's no nudity). Characters also talk about infidelity. While there's no violence, scenes of a key character who gets very ill could be upsetting, and there are several scenes in which characters argue and/or get loud with each other. It's implied that a comedy club manager does cocaine, and many characters drink (a couple of times to excess).

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byKelli J. October 8, 2017


Characters are funny and likable. Real world struggles and complexity. Root for a happy ending and for resolve. Didn't know anything about this movie wal... Continue reading
Adult Written byStevie111 August 15, 2017

Fantastic, funny, emotional romantic comedy

The Big Sick is a fantastic film about lead actor and writer Kumail Nanjiani's personal life and relationship with his now wife, who co-wrote it with him.... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old March 11, 2019

Funny, Modern, Sincere Romcom BASED ON A TRUE STORY

Thoughtful, layered romantic dramedy mixes a Crashing-esque sense of humor and stand-up bits with a heartfelt, dramatic, mature love story. All in all, a wonder... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old February 24, 2019

What's the story?

In THE BIG SICK, Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani, who co-wrote the film based on his own life) is a stand-up comic/Uber driver living in Chicago. He's pretty comfortable in his routines -- which include living in fraternity-like squalor, joking around with his fellow aspiring comedians, and humoring his mother, Sharmeen (Zenobia Shroff), at weekly family dinners, as she keeps trying to set him up with marriageable Pakistani girls. Then he falls for the decidedly non-Pakistani Emily (Zoe Kazan), a grad student who swears she doesn't want a relationship. But she keeps going out with Kumail anyway ... at least until he refuses to commit to their relationship because of what his traditional family might think. Kumail's post-breakup blues are shattered when Emily suddenly ends up gravely ill in the hospital. Even after her parents, Beth and Terry (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano), arrive on the scene, Kumail can't bring himself to leave Emily's side. As he builds a tentative relationship with Beth and Terry, he starts to understand that he might need to make some changes.

Is it any good?

Director Michael Showalter's engaging, thoughtful film is most easily billed as a romantic comedy, but it has far more depth and dimension than your standard rom-com. For one thing, Emily is comatose for about half the movie, which means Kumail's primary relationships shift to the new, often-shaky ones he's forming with Beth and Terry and the longstanding but sometimes almost as shaky ones he has with his own parents. Having to step up on his own, with Emily out of the picture, is what finally helps Kumail grow up and move forward in his life.

It's also what yields some of The Big Sick's funniest and most touching scenes. While early interactions between Kumail and Emily and Kumail and his comic buddies are funny and cute, they're nothing we haven't seen in indie romantic comedies before. But the scenes of Kumail getting to know Beth and Terry feel fresh and different; strangers thrown together by circumstance, they bond over everything from stress eating to talking about the one thing they do have in common: Emily. Only real life could have produced a story with these kinds of twists, turns, and odd bedfellows -- thankfully, because The Big Sick is based on Kumail and Emily's actual relationship, we know that it will all turn out all right in the end, with a lot of laughs and significant insights along the way.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Big Sick depicts cultural traditions -- specifically those from Nanjiani's Pakistani heritage. Is it OK to question the "rules"? What consequences does Kumail face for doing so? What would you have done in his place?

  • Is The Big Sick a romantic comedy? A family drama? How can you tell? Do movies have to fit into specific genres?

  • Do you think that Kumail learns integrity over the course of the movie? If so, how? Why is that an important character strength?

  • How does the movie portray sex and drinking? What role does the former play in the characters' lives (is it loving? consequential?)? And are there any consequences for the latter? Why is that important?

  • How accurate do you think the film is to what happened in Nanjiani's real life? Why might filmmakers (in this case, Nanjiani included) choose to alter the facts in a movie based on a true story?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance and indie movies

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