The Sympathy Card
Comedy, Romance, 1 hr 34 min
When Emma’s cancer takes a turn for the worse, she presents her new wife Josie a deathbed order: find someone new while Emma is still around to approve of her choice.
Guaranteed to make you laugh and cry. Honest, heart-breaking, and an absolutely wonderful piece of lesbian cinema
The Sympathy Card (2019) dir. Brendan Boogie follows the story of Josie (Nika Ezell Pappas) and her wife Emma (Petey J. Gibson), as they try to navigate through life after Emma’s cancer diagnosis. Emma, who is concerned about Josie’s happiness, makes it her mission to get Josie to find a girlfriend, or someone that can take care of her after she dies. This narrative lends itself well to presenting terminal illness in a seemingly refreshing and light-hearted way, but while this film uses comedy to abstain from making The Sympathy Card yet another depressing and overly-futile cancer film, it manages to evoke frank and honest discussion about living with terminal illness. As well as this, Boogie captures a true essence of the lesbian experience. I believe most lesbians could find themselves in this film, especially the film’s opening, in which Josie is a substitute for a female soccer team that she only signed up for to meet lesbians. Needless to say, we’ve all been there.
However, as this film unravels, I felt that Emma exploits her power over Josie in the way she makes her try to find another partner. Although Josie sees herself as weak and unable to pursue her own desires- often asking characters to tell her what to do, Emma’s insistency of Josie exploring new relationships reads as cruel and unnecessary, when all Josie wants is to spend as much time with her wife as much as possible. That being said, Petey J. Gibson’s performance of Emma felt incredibly real and seems to perfectly capture Emma’s conflict between optimism and pessimism. Though, this film isn’t really about whether or not Emma lives or dies, rather, it focuses on relationships between women and what it means to find yourself in a world that feels temporary.