THIS autobiographical culture-clash tale comes from the life and mind of its star/writer Kumail Nanjiani, who co-wrote the screenplay with Emily V Gordon (now his wife).

Best known for playing one of the tech team in HBO’s Silicon Valley, Nanjiani makes quite a big-screen impression as he puts his relationship out for all to see in what is one of the funniest, most refreshing and most honest rom-coms to come out in years.

Nanjiani essentially plays himself, a stand-up comedian and Uber driver who is immediately drawn to the woman, Emily (Zoe Kazan), who heckles him in the nicest way possible at one of his shows.

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Despite Emily’s reluctance to start any sort of relationship, the two of them can’t help but fall for one another. But there’s a big problem he can’t avoid: coming from a strict Muslim family, he is obliged to marry someone of his parents’ choosing.

When Emily is struck down by a mysterious illness that leaves her in a coma and close to death, Kumail decides to stick by her side, much to the surprise and reluctance of her parents, Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano).

This shrewdly observed relationship comedy avoids the pitfalls associated with a lot of other similar films, with laidback direction by Michael Showalter (Wet Hot American Summer) that allows the sharp, witty and multi-faceted script to do the talking. It gives us consistent chuckles punctuated with genuinely laugh-out-loud moments, but plenty to think about and that rare cinematic commodity of believable, well-rounded characters.

The performances are great across the board from a likeable and well-chosen cast. Nanjiani brings depth and genuine charm. Romano and Hunter are wonderful as Emily’s parents whose subplot gets fleshed out where other films would leave them two-dimensional. They’re caught between worrying sick about their daughter and being wary of her boyfriend who is hanging around, while wanting to learn more about him – from his background to the quiet courage it must take to stand up on a stage and tell jokes.

Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff make a fantastic impression as Kumail’s parents, hilariously trying to make it look like an accident that a prospective bride “just happened to drop by” but are portrayed as more than just one-sided difficult parents or mere comic relief. One particularly memorable scene drives home the film’s exploration of the humanity hidden by assumptions of ties of cultural heritage when their son approaches them about not wanting to marry a pre-chosen Pakistani partner.

There’s a lot going on inside this seemingly fluffy rom-com package, from the idea of monogamy and soul mates to racial and cultural butting of heads. In the wrong hands that stuff could feel trite or icky or offensive – one joke about 9/11 is particularly out there – but it’s judged perfectly here to make for a film that boldly yet tastefully commits to its touchy themes and jokes.

There’s much to admire and enjoy in a film that’s equal parts knowing and unpretentious, sometimes toe-curling in its honest portrayals of the intricacies, shielded inadequacies and pre-conceived notions of each other in a developing relationship and how that’s affected when each are from totally different backgrounds.

They say laughter is the best medicine and The Big Sick certainly delivers on that, with an endearing soft spot for the idea of true-life romance and all delivered with the undeniable ring of truth.