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Filmmaker Letter

Filmmaker Letter

The Big Sick

by director Michael Showalter

When I was approached to direct The Big Sick, I was riveted by it immediately. It was such a different way to tell a love story: a romantic comedy that explored all sorts of areas—faith, national identity, culture—all in an incredible true story. Knowing Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon, I felt connected to what I was reading. I could imagine what they were trying to say with their script.

I love romantic comedies, and the structure of The Big Sick is a major departure for the genre. Usually in a romantic comedy the second act is where the characters fall in love, break up and then they come back together in the third act. In The Big Sick that all happens in the first act. Then something monumental happens at the end of the first act and the love interest is not present for the entire second act—which is challenging as storytelling because how do you keep the love story alive? That was really exciting—to think: ‘Can this work?’ And to decide: ‘Yes, this can work if we do it right.’

Refining the characters and the interpersonal dynamics was integral to the film, and the immediate chemistry between Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, as well as Anupam Kher, Zenobia Schroff and Adeel Akhtar, took the story to another level. They all portray life as it really is—a complicated, emotional tangle of humor, sadness, anger and love. While they are unique and distinct they also blend together wonderfully as an ensemble. We knew we had the right people playing these parts—they're funny and also manage to exude intelligence and depth. That's important, because even in the most serious moments of the movie, there’s still an undercurrent of humor. Which is the whole way this movie approaches life: no matter how bad a situation gets, you’ve got to have humor.