Film Review – Romance

The Big Sick (2017)

Having Judd Apatow’s name appear next to a comedy, the likelihood is that it’s going to be quite good. His name features against some of the better comedies in recent memory, including Anchorman, Superbad and Step Brothers to name a few. Some of these films are a hive for intriguing, but genuine characters.

The Big Sick is the latest film to be attached with the Apatow name, but what I did not anticipate was the true story that revolved about the leading mans love life. Kumail Nanjiana wrote the romantic comedy story and told the story about him and his wife.

Kumail is a stand up comic, but survives day-to-day by being an Über driver around Chicago. As I mentioned, Apatow films often have genuine characters and that what Kumail is. As usual with this sort of comedy, it’s more wit than situation or slapstick comedy, and Kumail is the perfect vehicle for this as he is incredibly deadpan throughout the film.

Regardless of the situation he finds himself in, Kumail remains incredibly deadpan. His first meeting with Emily (Zoe Kazan) is brilliant as they have instant chemistry, which just emits from the screen. Of course, in true romantic comedic style, the newly-formed couple manage to enchant the screen and fill us with the joy of Kumail and Emily enjoying each others company.

But further to a classic romantic comedy trope, what goes up, must come down. They become infuriated with each other and break up, citing that they cannot do it anymore. They both abide, until Emily is placed in a medically induced coma to try and fight a strange infection and Kumail never leaves her side after learning this.

It’s not often that I am caught watching Romantic Comedies, truthfully because they are not my cup of tea, but The Big Sick has proved that there are still new avenues that can be explored in romantic comedies. Michael Showalter chose to explore the culture clash between Pakistani culture and a modern westernised culture that Kumail finds himself being pulled to and from.

Kumail consistently defies his parents wishes, from not praying to playing coy with the meetings with potential brides to appease his parents. This is all the whilst he keeps falling for Emily and their chemistry continues to light up the screen. The believability of this situation comes down to the acting that is on display from Kumail, Zoe and the rest of the cast.

And The Big Sick is incredibly honest for a romantic comedy, majority of the romantic comedies I have seen often fall into a certain farfetched approach to the story, but this one doesn’t. It has Emily acting skittish because she’s got to take a shit and doesn’t want to in Kumail’s house in an incredibly funny scene. But not only this, but the approach to Pakistani culture and recognising that there are people within those families that do not necessarily want to live that way.

On top of this, the film is incredibly funny. Ray Romano and Holly Hunter as Emily’s parents are excellent with their brashness toward Kumail, but also Kumail’s deadpan jokes. (his response to the 9/11 question had me in stitches I must admit). Showalter was very unapologetic it seemed as the film progressed, but that’s great because it’s opened up fresher avenues for the film to explore through the genre.

For a fresh approach to the romantic comedy genre, you’ll not find a better film than The Big Sick. It’s use of comedy throughout is brilliant, because it relies on wit, rather than situational/slapstick comedy, but the characters at the heart of this film are the winners. It’s because you genuinely want these characters to get together by the end of the film and as always with Apatow films they are genuine characters.

The Big Sick is probably not going to be the best film I have seen this year, but it’ll be the best romantic comedy for sure. It’ll probably include some of the best laughs and characters from films this year and it just shows that Apatow knows his comedies and characters. I still find myself chuckling occasionally at the jokes.


Equals (2016)

Sometimes films get a run they don’t deserve and fell prey to scathing reviews. Equals would be one such example as it had a run on the festival circuit but after some less-than-impressed reviews it did not get the run it should’ve had. Thanks to the magic of Twitter Drake Doremus’ feature had a quiet corner making noise in it’s praise, which gave me intrigue into checking this film out. And it has to be said, Equals could be one of the better largely-unnoticed films I have encountered.

Equals is set in what seems to be quite an Orwellian futuristic landscape where the world is without war and suffering thanks to the human race being devoid of emotions. What initially seems to be sold as a utopian society, is quickly realised to be quite a dystopian future look on the world.

Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart are placed at the centre of this film and their chemistry on screen is one of the greatest delights about this film. Silas (Nicholas Hoult) works interpreting Nia’s (Kristen Stewart) words in the form of colourful illustrations, when the rest of the world is devoid of colour.

Usually with dystopian films of this nature where the world is without emotion, everyone is drone-like and moves in the same way. Equals moves in a different way, as we see the humans dart around, some with a sense of purpose, instead of moving single file. They even have Silas bump into other Citizens, as he tries to find his place in this world.

Instead of focusing on this emotionless structure of the dystopian world, Doremus chooses to observe the emotions passed between Silas and Nia, which becomes key throughout this film. His choice to shoot these emotions in a handheld style accentuates the discreet emotions exhibited by the dynamic duo.

As their stories become entwined, the story bears on and it’s worth noting that the opening sections are slow and plod through the opening fifteen or so minutes. This is expected, but as the story picks up it’s pace, the film matches the pace as it picks up smatterings of the love-struck lovers in Romeo and Juliet.

This is all down to the perfect casting of Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult and their subtle facial expressions throughout. This mixed with their tendencies to show discreet emotions works superbly within Equals. As I said, Doremus employed the use of shooting the film via the means of handheld really perfects the intimate, precious scenes between Silas and Nia.

Their curiosity becomes really vivid as they discover these emotions together during their after-hour stays in the bathroom, all the while creating some tense scenes. Due to this shooting choice and the genuine performances by Hoult and Stewart, a lasting connection forms between the two and it reverberates off the screen. So much so, as the film enters into the latter half, the story began to fill me with angst and worry as the narrative pressed on.

This latter half takes on a somewhat surprising turn, which left me guessing as to what was going to happen in regards to Silas and Nia. This was all played out to perfection on screen and left me reeling. This comes down to the excellent way in which the story plays out throughout the picture and this is all but helped by the shades of Romeo and Juliet.

Now with a dystopian tale such as this, it would have been easy for Doremus to focus on the two central figures either escaping the confines of ‘The Collective’ or bringing down the tyranny. Instead Doremus focuses on Silas and Nia’s relationship as they discover emotions for the first time. I cannot give Doremus enough praise as Equals was just an absolute joy to watch and left me reeling throughout the story which doesn’t happen often.

This is all but helped on by the fantastic casting and acting by Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult throughout the hour and a half runtime. His choice to focus on the characters rather than the state of the world was the absolute key to this story working so well and their delicate but precise interactions with each other made the film even greater. If anything, I would implore everybody to watch this film as it deserves more viewings than it’s festival run.

Once Upon a Time in the Midlands (2002)

Nothing of interest happens in the midlands, but Shane Meadows somehow found a way to tell a rather enjoyable story of love, robberies and a cowboy.

Much like Trainspotting this film is very much a working class story, but set in Nottingham. Jimmy (Robert Carlyle) wakes up in Glasgow, living in squalor, to see his sister appear on a show that could only be described as an early noughties Jeremy Kyle. A humiliation of rejected proposal is shown across the nation, as Dek (Rhys Ifans) proposes to Shirley (Shirley Henderson).


Whilst Dek is being rejected, Jimmy is in cahoots with some Glaswegian bit-time crooks that have a knack for stealing the oddest cars going. The first being a stretch mini, the last being a truck with a boat attached to the back. The crooks target a group of clowns and steal a bag from them, in a scene that wouldn’t go amiss in the Arctic Monkey’s Flourescent Adolescent music video. Jimmy decides to take the bag and head for the hills, or rather Nottingham.

Arriving in Nottingham, with a bag that is full of cash, Jimmy has one goal. To win back the affections of his daughter, Marlene, and of course, the love of Shirley. Now from the usual love triangle when a child is involved, the returning competing father usually takes them on a whimsical day that is full of joy and over-consumption of father-daughter bonding scenes. Where does Jimmy take his daughter? To the pub.

By the way, this all stemmed from a relationship issue between Carol and Charlie, an estranged couple trying to mend their marriage via mainstream media.

Shane Meadows has excellently tapped into what families like this are actually like instead of vying for the perfect model family. He showed that typical families go to play bingo and spend nights down the local working men’s club to enjoy a boogie.


The love triangle between Shirley, Dek and Jimmy envelopes this film, but also the Glaswegian crews come a-knocking for Jimmy, which also causes a ruckus. Ifans, Carlyle and Henderson all have that certain chemistry, but also anticipate the awkwardness perfectly between the three during well-timed scenes throughout the film. The rest of the cast backed up by Ricky Tomlinson and Kathy Burke creates the believable working class hero triumph throughout the film, and there is no better man to play the villain then the Glaswegian Prince Robert Carlyle.

I thought it was strange for Meadows to name his Midlands based tale, Once Upon a Time in the Midlands, however, all becomes clear over the course of the film. Apart from the obvious Midlands Cowboy Charlie (Ricky Tomlinson) the music that is teased throughout the film has that Western-tinge to it and of course the general story framework, of the hero and villain, Dek and Jimmy, respectively.


Although I’m not entirely certain as to why Shane Meadows made a film regarding Nottingham and the Midlands as a whole, but I’m rather glad he did. Although the film has the romantic comedy story at the centre of it all, it doesn’t weigh to heavy on Once Upon a Time in the Midlands’ shoulders. Considering the onslaught of romantic comedies from the late 90s and early noughties being set in America or London, Meadows setting his in Nottingham is a refreshing change of pace. His choice to instil the comedic flair with Burke and Tomlinson was the correct choice, but also didn’t feel forced in anyway. Everything came natural and seemed natural, which I feel is one of the biggest triumphs of this film.

Perks of Being A Wallflower (2012)

Now what is expected in a coming-of-age drama about high school, is a social outcast finding their feet in their high school time, relationships and dramas. The Perks of Being A Wallflower is no different as it stars Charlie finding his feet in high school. Charlie (Logan Lerman) is writing to a unknown person detailing the fact he starting high school for the first time and that he has not long been out of hospital. Which of course outlines the character we’re dealing with. He also mentions that bar his family he hasn’t spoken to anyone this summer, pretty much labeling Charlie as a social introvert or outcast.

This idea is shown as Charlie tries to find somewhere to sit during his lunch break, to where he is rejected by people he has known and even his sister, leaving him to sit alone. The next scene, we meet one of the trio of main characters, Patrick. He is a senior unfortunate enough to be taking a freshman shop class, and of course, he plays the class clown type character.

Charlie and Patrick's Clocks In Their Workshop Class.

Charlie and Patrick’s Clocks In Their Workshop Class.

The third and final member of the trio, is Sam (Emma Watson) who plays Patricks stepsister, and she is met at the high school football game, where Charlie is invited to sit next to them. The group discover they have a lot in common, mainly in musical taste and we see Charlie, the introvert, become less of an introvert. Beforehand, we had seen Charlie be alone at lunchtimes and being bullied around school, now he has settled with a group of friends and is doing extra assignments for English for his teacher Mr Anderson, without the hassle from his classmates.

Mr Anderson (Paul Rudd) plays the role of the teacher who everyone got on the most with at school (there was always that one teacher, don’t lie to yourselves). He offers him extra assignments in reading as he sees potential in Charlie and hands him various books. This coincides with his ambition to become a writer which is referenced throughout the film.

“Call it the Slut and the Falcon. Make us solve crimes!”

Relationships become an integral part of this film, because ultimately, this is the rest of the film. With the friendship group which now involves Mary Elizabeth and Alice, relationships evolve and dissolve throughout the film, but maintains Charlie’s interest in Sam throughout the film and whether or not that comes into fruition. Ultimately Charlie, as mentioned before, has been in and out of hospital for an unknown reason, with this new group is feeling better and rarely feeling “bad”, as he mentions in his letters. This is too the point where he enjoys his comrades, and states “we are infinite” when they discover the tunnel song (Heroes by David Bowie) and their continuous quest to find this song.

Majority of the coming of age high school films would see the protagonist getting what there are after and surviving high school, however, Perks of Being A Wallflower is completely different. The ending is unexpected I felt, and of course, I won’t spoil the ending because I enjoyed it and felt it different which was a nice surprise. But generally speaking this film is really enjoyable on a whole, and it all feels very joyful for the nostalgic feel in the experiences that the group go through.

Of course, this being a film in the 1990s, this film might appeal more to those born in the 1980s, as the music choices, the rebellious nature and the infatuation with the Rocky Horror Picture Show on the stage. But not only this, generally there is an appeal to all youth, with the parties and the beginning of and breaking down of relationships. It’s a true coming of age story as Charlie does find himself, not without consequences though as his choices in certain areas are the wrong ones, which causes issues in the friendship group.

What I did enjoy about this film, is off-production, is that the writer of the book, is actually the director of the film. Admittedly there is nothing stunning about the directing. For anyone that is reading this, is the book similar to the film? As I do have an issue of interpretations of books to films, but with the writer of the book directing, it could be different.