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Inter-racial marriages finally get some attention

  • 03 August 2017


The Big Sick (M).Director: Michael Showalter. Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano. 120 minutes.

About one in six newlyweds in the United States is involved in a ‘mixed marriage’, according to the Pew Research Center. At home, the percentage is higher; in 2009 approximately 42 per cent of marriages involved at least one partner who was not born in Australia. Among Indigenous Australians, the percentage of ‘mixed’ couples is thought to be higher still – around 60 per cent.

Yet such a high proportion of interracial relationships is rarely represented on the big screen, particularly in a Hollywood ‘rom-com’. Which goes some way to explaining why The Big Sick could be just the breath of fresh air this stagnating genre needs.

This is a romantic story with real heart – even more so when considering the fact it is based on a remarkable true story. The latest Apatow Productions comedy has several delightful deviations from the norm: the lead character is not white, but is in fact an Indian Uber driver called Kumail. Further, his culture is not sidelined or ignored, but actually becomes key to the whole plot.

Kumail Nanjiani (played by himself) is a would-be comedian who lives in a crappy apartment and drives Uber to make ends meet. Along with three stand-up comic pals, Kumail diligently performs his routines in the hopes of impressing talent scouts and making it into competitions.

On another predictable night of well-worn sets and mildly amused crowds, Kumail is heckled by the effortlessly adorable Emily (Zoe Kazan). Post-show, he accuses her of heckling and she explains that, no, she was being supportive. She then offers a string of undeniably flattering “heckles” and Kumail instantly resigns himself to her charm.

This is enough to spark up an obvious chemistry, and thus set Emily and Kumail on track to fall rather hopelessly in love.

That they have differing different cultural backgrounds is not ignored, but rather seen as inconsequential to the development of their relationship. While this is a mark of progress for a country that has historically struggled with interracial relationships, the irony is that their cultural differences become all too relevant as things progress.


"Such a successful and unique film leaves the door wide open for more mainstream depictions of the lives of culturally diverse people."


An easy, saccharine courtship becomes increasingly fraught by the fact Kumail faces very real repercussions if he allows it to continue, with a