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The Big Sick

The Big Sick Plot

Kumail, a Chicago Uber driver, is a failing stand-up comedian who performs a one-man show about his Pakistani American heritage. His immigrant parents encourage him to take the LSAT and set him up with young unmarried Pakistani women in the hopes that he will follow in their footsteps and marry arranged, but he is disinterested.

Kumail has a one-night fling with Emily, a white psychology student, after a performance, and the two start an unexpected romance. Kumail is afraid of his family disowning him if he tells them. Emily discovers images of the young ladies Kumail’s parents have hooked him up with after five months. She breaks up with him when he tells her he doesn’t sure if they have a future together.

Emily’s buddy calls Kumail in the middle of the night to inform him that Emily has been admitted to the hospital with a major lung infection and must be placed in an induced coma right away. He signs the consent form for her to be put into a coma and then contacts her parents, Beth and Terry, pretending to be her husband. They tell Kumail he isn’t required because of their daughter’s unpleasant breakup, but Kumail stays and the three grow closer as Emily’s sickness progresses. During one of Kumail’s stand-up shows, Beth and Terry witness a racist audience member heckling Kumail, prompting Beth to defend him.

Emily’s kidneys become infected as a result of the failed surgery. Beth wants Emily to be moved to a different hospital, but Kumail and Terry are against it. Terry sleeps at Kumail’s flat after a fight with Beth. Terry admits to having previously cheated on Beth and expresses regret.

Kumail’s parents come to see him, enraged that he isn’t taking their marital advice seriously. Kumail confesses his relationship with Emily and informs them that he is no longer a devout Muslim, that he does not desire an arranged marriage, and that he is no longer a practicing Muslim. His parents had abandoned him. Kumail discovers that the illness has spread to Emily’s heart just before an audition for the Montreal Comedy Festival. Kumail, distraught, confesses his anxieties about Emily’s illness in a sad monologue and fails the audition.

When Kumail recalls Emily’s slow-healing ankle injury, the physicians determine she doesn’t have an infection; instead, she has adult-onset Still’s disease, a serious but manageable autoimmune illness. Emily awakens from her coma and tells Kumail to leave, still hurting from their breakup. Beth, on the other hand, invites Kumail to Emily’s homecoming celebration. Emily refuses to return Kumail, reminding him that, while he may have had a life-changing experience during her illness, nothing has changed from her perspective.

Kumail’s parents pay him a visit as he prepares to leave. His father informs him that they are still furious, but that he can have a serving of his favorite meal and that he should keep in touch. Kumail gets heckled by someone in the audience while performing in New York, and he realizes it is Emily.