The Big Sick is very much a Sundance formula movie. Of the checklist of common elements of Sundance films it hits on several; struggling artist, star-crossed lovers, someone potentially dying of an illness and wittiness, so much wittiness. But, The Big Sick takes these elements and creates a film that is a tremendous breath of fresh air taken with an incredible dose of honesty.

The film is largely based on the life story of its star and co-writer Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon, who co-wrote the script. Nanjiani plays the appropriately named Kumail as he struggles with his life in Chicago. He is an unsuccessful stand up comedian trying to come to terms with his career and the pressures of his Pakistani family. The film kicks into gear when we meet Emily (played wonderfully by Zoe Kazan) at one of Kumail’s gigs. The two hit it off in an extremely unconventional way which makes them instantly redeemable and easy to root for.

Unfortunately no great Sundance film comes without conflict. The pressures of being a Pakistani in the US and the cultural traditions Kumail’s parents put on him to marry a Pakistani woman slowly destroy Kumail and Emilys relationship. Kumail seems to be coming to terms with the breakup when he receives a phone call that Emily had to be rushed to the hospital.

The Big Sick
Kumail Nanjiani, co-writer and star of “The Big Sick,” is interviewed at the premiere of the film at Eccles Theatre during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

What results from that is an insane moment when Kumail must pose as Emily’s husband and sign off on the doctor’s decision to place her in a medically induced coma. As Emily falls into the coma we meet her parents, the perfectly cast Ray Romano and Holly Hunter. The next hour of the film focuses on the relationship of these three incredibly complex, flawed people as they deal with the uncertainty of their loved one’s fate.

Director Michael Showalter is no stranger to Sundance, having written one of the greatest comedies to ever premiere in Park City, Wet Hot American Summer. This time he brought his wonderful touch as a director to Park City with The Big Sick. His partnership with Kumail Nanjiani results in a script and film that is pitch perfect for everything it touches on. The human elements this film delves into are numerous but touching all the way.

The honesty in the words and the performance of Kumail is what makes this film seamlessly flow and make the near two hour running time fly by. Since this film is largely a true story of Kumail and his now wife it resonates like most other films don’t. Nanjiani is definitely hilarious like he is in everything he has been in prior, but it’s his moments of vulnerability and anguish which bring this film to life.

Kazan and Nanjiani are incredible together on screen. Every scene the two are together results in incredibly clever, hilarious dialogue met with even better delivery. It is because of this likability and connection, you can’t help but want them to wind up together. You want Emily to wake up and you want their lives to start together. But, this film is based on a true story so there are real human issues and problems that are dealt with in this film that aren’t usually on screen, because that is not very Hollywood. These are real people and this is a real relationship.

The issues of Kumail and his struggle with his family and Pakistani culture is something hardly brought to life on film. All of these things are enlightening and illuminating. The Big Sick is as rich a film that has played at Sundance in years and it makes you laugh until you cry.

It was announced Sunday afternoon The Big Sick reached a near record deal with Amazon Studios. This is an incredible crowning achievement for these people that told this story and how they told it. There is a very good chance The Big Sick will be the best film to come out of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.