The Big Sick (Film Review) – A Great Blend of Comedy and Drama

The Big Sick is a romantic comedy directed by Michael Showalter and written by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani. The film is partly based on and inspired by the real-life romance between Nanjiani and Gordon and stars Zoe KazanHolly HunterRay RomanoAdeel Akhtar, Anupam Kher and Kumail Nanjiani. Kumail effectively plays himself in this film and the story focuses on his interracial relationship with Emily (Zoe Kazan). They have to deal with their cultural differences but Emily is struck with a sudden illness that threatens more than just their relationship.

My Knowledge and Expectation of The Big Sick

This is a film which has been on my radar ever since it was initially released at Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. It received unanimous praise, particularly when it came to the script, the performances and the cross-cultural themes that The Big Sick showcases. Still, this was the only thing I knew about The Big Sick. Indeed, I am unfamiliar with the director and I knew little about the cast. Moreover, Kumail Nanjiani is someone who, until quite recently, I did not know anything about.

I have never watched Silicon Valley which is where he made a name for himself. I only came to know about Kumail through his recent appearance on a THR Roundtable. I was excited to see him in a leading role as well as the other actors/actresses that were unknown to me. The only two in this that I knew were Holly Hunter and Ray Romano and this was because of their voice work in The Incredibles and Ice Age respectively. The praise that The Big Sick received prior to its release in the UK set my expectations relatively high and I was hoping to have a fun time with it.

Kumail Nanjiani as Kumail and Zoe Kazan as Emily in The Big Sick

My Thoughts on The Big Sick

I really enjoyed The Big Sick. While I do not hold the film in the same lofty regard as others, it is a very good film that accomplishes the difficult feat of blending comedy, romance and drama in a very natural and authentic way. A big reason why this is the case was because of the performance by Kumail Nanjiani. He was perfect for this role and it is not surprising since he was effectively playing himself in a story based on his real-life relationship with co-writer Emily V. Gordon.

Zoe Kazan played Emily in this film and she also did a great job. She had great chemistry with Kumail Nanjiani and their relationship gave The Big Sick a lot of heart and depth. Indeed, this is especially true when you consider that the film dealt with important themes such as religion, The American Dream and cultural identity in a 21st century setting.

Zenobia Shroff as Sharmeen and Anupam Kher as Azmat in The Big Sick

The Parents Are Hilarious

Still, for me, The Big Sick really shined when the parents of both Kumail and Emily were involved in the story. They provided the funniest moments in the film. Kumail’s parents, and his family in general, were flat out hilarious and the scenes that focused on their efforts to get an arranged marriage for Kumail provided a lot of laughs.

Emily’s parents, who were played by the aforementioned Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, also had their moments. Indeed, a joke about 9/11 had me in stitches (I know that came across badly, but it makes sense within the context of the film). The way their relationship with Kumail developed throughout The Big Sick was another strong element of the film.

Ray Romano as Terry and Holly Hunter as Beth in The Big Sick

To be honest, there is very little that I can find wrong with The Big Sick. It has a bit of everything for everyone. True, other films in 2017 have left a bigger impact on me and, because of this, they rank higher. However, this film was one of the most pleasant and feel-good viewing experiences that I have had at the cinema so far in 2017. This is because the ending was such a nice note to finish on after some pretty heavy scenes in the film. I highly recommend that you see The Big Sick as soon as you can. You will laugh, you may cry but you will leave the cinema in a much happier mood.

Viceroy’s House (Film Review) – A Well-Told Story

Viceroy’s House is a historical drama directed by Gurinder Chadha and stars Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Manish Dayal, Huma Qureshi, and Michael Gambon. The film is set in 1947 during the Partition of India and the primary focus of the film is on Lord Mountbatten (Bonneville). Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, is tasked with overseeing the transition of British India to independence. However, mounting religious conflict within India attempts to derail this transition as well as a blossoming romance between Jeet (Dayal), a Hindu manservant, and Alia (Qureshi), a Muslim assistant.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Viceroy’s House

The sole reason why I was interested in Viceroy’s House is due to the subject matter. Without a doubt, the Indian Independence Movement and the Partition of India are fascinating historical events that I have always had a keen interest in. In fact, one of the modules I took while studying for my degree in History was about this time period. Additionally, I find the film Gandhi to be one of the greatest bio-pics of all time. Going into this film, I was expecting to gain a new perspective about the Partition of India.

Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson and Neeraj Kabi in Viceroy's House

My Thoughts on Viceroy’s House

Overall, Viceroy’s House did everything it needed to do for me. It is a good film and the thing that impressed me most was that Chadha’s viewpoint about the Partition of India is put across very well. Certainly, the film is made for an audience who will have little to no knowledge about the Partition of India which means that there is a lot of exposition. Nevertheless, Viceroy’s House is never boring, simply because the exposition is about such an interesting event in history and the viewpoint put across by Chadha is intriguing.

Chadha’s film is one which portrays Lord Mountbatten as a powerless pawn within an imperial game in which Winston Churchill was the puppet-master. The film suggests that the Partition of India was planned by Churchill with the creation of Pakistan providing safety from the Soviet Union and safeguarding the UK’s oil interests. It is interesting to view the Partition of India in this light and I commend Chadha for telling this viewpoint in an uncomplicated way.

There are other qualities in Viceroy’s House that I admire. The score, composed by A. R. Rahman, is brilliant, the humour in the film is good and I thought the love story between Jeet and Alia was decent too. Additionally, the themes of the film such as division and religion were very profound, especially as it parallels to what is happening in the world today.

Manish Dayal and Huma Qureshi in Viceroy's House

My Love for Gandhi Colours My Opinion of Viceroy’s House

The performances in Viceroy’s House are fine. No one gives a great performance in the film but all of the cast are dependable and it is a solid ensemble performance. The one thing I did struggle to do was embrace the actors who played Jinnah, Nehru and Gandhi. Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t bad and they certainly weren’t miscast. However, I have such a deep connection to the actors who played these iconic figures in Gandhi that I struggled to buy these new actors as these characters.

Still, this did not ruin my experience of watching Viceroy’s House. If you are looking for a cinematic introduction to learn about the history of the Indian Independence Movement and the Partition of India, I would recommend Gandhi over Viceroy’s House. However, once you watch Viceroy’s House, I doubt you will be disappointed as there are various elements of this film which you can appreciate.

Silence (Film Review) – A Boring Slog

Silence is a historical drama directed by Martin Scorsese and stars Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano, Issey Ogata and Yōsuke Kubozuka. The story follows two 17th-century Jesuit priests, played by Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver. They travel from Portugal to Japan to find their missing mentor, played by Liam Neeson, while trying to spread Catholocism at a time where Christians are being persecuted, tortured and killed in Japan.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Silence

This is a film which has been in development for a long, long time. Indeed, this has been a passion project for Scorsese for decades which has been through a troubled production process with Scorsese focusing on other films such as Hugo, Shutter Island and The Wolf of Wall Street before finally pushing ahead with making Silence. My anticipation for Silence was largely influenced by Scorsese directing the film.

Certainly, Scorsese is a brilliant director who has made some absolute classic films such as Goodfellas, Casino, Hugo and The Wolf of Wall Street and when you consider the talent of the cast in this film, it all looked like Silence was shaping up to be a great film. Nevertheless, I still had doubts about how much I would enjoy this film. Indeed, as much as I admire Scorsese, I have not liked some of his films.

Martin Scorsese and Andrew Garfield on the set of Silence

For instance, I could not get through Mean Streets, The Aviator was very dull and slow and, in my opinion, I think Raging Bull is overrated (It’s good, just not the masterpiece everyone thinks it is). Still, I hoped that Silence would fall into the category of what I consider to be the best films of Scorsese.

My Thoughts on Silence

Sadly, this was not to be the case at all. I did not like Silence. True, the film has some good qualities but the overall package left me very disappointed. Before I talk about why Silence was such a disappointment, let’s talk about the few things I appreciated about the film. For one, Silence is a visually stunning film. The cinematography is absolutely fantastic and you can tell that every shot was intimately crafted.

There were also some good performances in this film, with the standout performance coming from Andrew Garfield and Liam Neeson was also good in the small role he had. I also thought that the film tried to deal with some interesting themes such as idealism, devotion to religions and pragmatism. However, all of these aspects of Silence which I liked were not enough to make me overcome my disdain for how ridiculously boring and slow this film is.

Andrew Garfield in Silence

Poor Pacing

Truly, I was begging for this film to end probably half-way through the running time. It was so tough for me to get through and the length of the film is not the main problem. Indeed, films like Braveheart, The Wolf of Wall Street and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy are long but have good pacing and great pay-off.

Silence had none of these things. It trudges along at a snail’s pace and it really bothered me. Moreover, when I hoped that the final act would make these issues I had with the pacing go away, I was again disappointed by how the ending played out. It just made me think ‘What a waste of time!’.

All of this makes me disappointed rather than angry because there are things to admire about this film. However, despite the visuals, themes and performances, the pacing and the poor third act left me feeling extremely disappointed and unwilling to recommend Silence as a film you have to see.