The Big Sick Majors on Relationships

The Big Sick is a partially biographic drama about a relationship across cultural

barriers. Kumail (played by himself, Kumail Nanjiani) is a Pakistani Muslim living in the USA. He is a taxi driver and aspiring comedian whose family expects him to become a lawyer and marry a good Pakistani girl. But Kumail continues to pursue stand-up comedy, and he starts a romantic relationship with Emily (Zoe Kazan), a white American girl from a fairly traditional family. Conflict ensues.

On the one hand it is Kumail’s own ‘Americanisation’ that clashes with his family’s traditional demands regarding culture, profession and religion. On the other, when Emily becomes gravely ill and is put into an induced coma, the battle moves to that between Kumail and Emily’s parents. In the latter scenario the white American prejudice against Middle Eastern Muslim is brought to the fore.

The Big Sick is told from an American perspective. It is free choice and self-actualisation that wins out in the end. Score for Westernisation. But, equally, in this film shallow American prejudice against ‘the other’ is subverted. A typical view of fanatic Muslims is undermined, mostly through the use of humour. For example, when Kumail is sent to the basement to do his ritual prayers he watches videos instead. And when Kumail’s mother banishes him from the family for pursuing a forbidden relationship, she struggles to keep up her angry façade, sending him cookies while at the same time refusing to speak to him.

The best part about The Big Sick is the relationships. That between Kumail and his family (which remains loving and gentle despite the differences), between Kumail and Emily (which is a bantering, natural relationship), and between Kumail and Emily’s parents (in which humour breaks down the barriers). The real feel of the Kumail/Emily romance may be because the story is biographical.

The Big Sick is a warm, funny, humanly complex and very watchable film. It opens at cinemas in South Africa on 6 October 2017.

A Perfect Day

A newspaper headline I read this week stated: Missiles hit children’s hospital. Next to it was a picture of a smiling woman alongside Spectre’s James Bond Aston Martin. The car was about to go on auction and was expected to raise between £1 million and £1.5 million. The incongruence of these two stories right next to each other in the newspaper forms a good picture for the message A Perfect Day tries to portray. Set “somewhere in the Balkans” (as the opening subtitle announces), A Perfect Day shows the daily struggle ordinary people in a war zone face just to live. The aid workers who come in to help these people – from Europe and the Americas – represent countries where life is “normal”, a state which simply cannot be achieved in this dried out, half-ruined place.

Benicio_Del_Toro_-_Guardians_of_the_Galaxy_premiere_-_July_2014_(cropped)

Benicio Del Toro. Source: commons.wikimedia.org.

The opening scene is filmed from the bottom of a well. In the water floats the bloated body of a man. Foreign Aid workers B (Tim Robbins), Mambrú (a well-cast Benicio Del Toro) and Sophie (Mélanie Thierry) try to remove the body from the well but the frayed old rope they are using snaps. What ensues is a long, ridiculous attempt by the workers to find more rope to extract the man from the well before he infects the water. Their efforts make up the bulk of the story, highlighting along the way the effects of war on civilians, the mindless bureaucracy of aid organisations, and the ludicrous inefficiencies of the UN.

But it’s not all misery and angst. There is humour too. Some of it rather silly and drawn out, an aspect of A Perfect Day I didn’t enjoy. But other humour is put to good use. The locals, an interpreter informs the aid workers, laugh all the time at everything – a coping mechanism, I imagine, as life here is not very humorous. Or is it? Humour does seem to win out in the end; despite all the efforts of the workers it is serendipity that triumphs, hence: A Perfect Day.

A Perfect Day – a movie that emphasises the importance of living just for the moment (for yesterday and tomorrow do not exist says Mambrú) – is a slow-moving film that will not be to everyone’s taste. It is worth watching though for its very uniqueness. It is currently showing at select Ster Kinekor theatres in South Africa.

Mr Peabody and Sherman – an animation for adults too

A review by Brenda Daniels

Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a clever, funny, children’s animated adventure film. It contains fun science fiction elements, historic and educational features, and a modern setting with relationships. The 3D format makes for enjoyable viewing.

Based on a 1960s animated TV series, the story features an impossibly intelligent little dog as the title character, Mr. Peabody. Sherman is Mr. Peabody’s (human) adopted son. A scientist extraordinaire, Mr. Peabody has invented a time machine which he and Sherman use to visit past eras.

So we see them making a trip to an anti-royalist France and to ancient Troy and Egypt. They meet famous people like Marie Antoinette, Leonardo da Vinci, and many more. These excursions provide a wealth of education for Sherman, and the audience, and are a source of clever humour adults will pick up on.

Far from being a socially inept genius, however, Mr. Peabody is also into hip hop dancing, sword fighting, cocktail mixing – you name it; he can do it. And when it comes to looking after his son, Mr. Peabody is just as “human” as the rest of us. He worries about Sherman attending school for the first time. In fact it’s on Sherman’s first day at school that the story really begins.

After a rather sorry encounter with a mean school girl called Penny, Sherman and his dad are launched into an exciting adventure. The ensuing action sees them battling a collision of the past and present, dealing with modern school politics and personalities, and facing off the complications in their own relationship.

The film is rated PG and runs for an entertaining one and a half hours. As an adult I thoroughly enjoyed the clever humour and original mix of genres. Older children who like something a little meaty will enjoy the educational aspects, parcelled as they are in adventure and funny relationships. Very little children will miss the meaning in the dialogue.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman opens today, 20 March, at NuMetro cinemas (3D) in South Africa.

Source: Creative Commons

Source: Creative Commons

Source: Creative Commons

Source: Creative Commons