Critic's Choice

'The Big Sick' provides a needed jolt to the American romantic dramedy

“The Big Sick” begins with a meet-cute, proceeds confidently through flirtation, sex and full-fledged romance, then skids to a halt with a nasty breakup, followed by the kind of dire medical emergency that seems fated to end in reconciliation or grief.

It sounds like the stuff of a conventional romantic dramedy, and on some level it is. Certainly you can sense the imprint of Judd Apatow, one of the movie's producers, in both its emotional density and its precision-tooled stream of laughs and tears.

Conventionality is a funny thing, though (and so, for that matter, is “The Big Sick”). In charting the romance between a Pakistani American man and a white woman, played by Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan, the film invigorates the Apatovian formula and indeed an entire genre with a thorny study of interracial relationships and the bonds that hold immigrant families together across an ever-widening generation gap.

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