A few things to kick off our discussion. First, it intrigues me that Emily doesn’t get sick until 4445. Since the movie is called The Big Sick and Emily’s coma is a central part of the story, per Hollywood conventional wisdom, one might think this plotline point is late, should be the end of Act One. However, the couple needs to have time to meet, get to know each other, and break up before the disease strikes. In order to earn all of that up and down psychological and emotional ‘stuff’, the story needs whatever page count it needs to play that out.

Moreover, how long can the Protagonist (Kumail) spend with Emily in a coma: The entirety of Act II? That’s too long to have Emily as an inactive character.

Same with the breakup which occurs 35–39. The characters need all of that screen time to go way up, then come way down.

This is a reminder that The Story Rules! Whatever and wherever it needs to go, that’s where it needs to go. Don’t let supposed screenplay paradigms or formulas restrict the freedom you may need to tell the story how it should be told.

Another observation: Whereas the script may have a non-traditional structure (a long first act), it has a very traditional ending, what is referred to in Hollywood as the ‘give ’em what they expect, then give ’em what they want’ ending.

Give ’em what they expect: Kumail leaves Chicago for NYC and the couple is not together.

Give ’em what they want: In the denouement, Emily shows up in NYC and — callback! — woo hoos Kumail at the comedy club. There to see a friend.

What are your impressions of the story based on reading the scene-by-scene breakdown?

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