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Nika Ezell Pappas and Petey Gibson in The Sympathy Card

Nika Ezell Pappas and Petey Gibson in The Sympathy Card (Photo: Petey Gibson)

Two newlywed lesbians, one a smooth talker, the other hopelessly awkward. Soccer. A flower store. Boston queer culture. A cancer patient’s dying wish to get her wife laid before she’s gone. 

This is The Sympathy Card, and it’s a must-watch lesbian rom-com being released on streaming platforms Friday, July 1. 

Just after they get married, Josie’s (Nika Ezell Pappas) terminally ill wife Emma (Petey Gibson) gives her a deathbed order — she wants Josie to use the “sympathy card” to meet other lesbians, which has never been her strong suit. But the search for a potential hook-up that Emma approves of takes a turn when her plan collides with Josie’s desire to spend as much time with her wife as possible before cancer consumes her. 

The Sympathy Card masterfully shares the story of the two lovebirds by journeying back and forth through time. It’s a sexy, funny, delightfully awkward film that takes you through an entire array of emotions — anger, sadness, grief, love, loss, and joy.

Gibson, who plays Emma, is a trans actor and co-producer. Gibson came of age in the Boston lesbian scene, and was determined to pay homage to the places he loved the most when he came onto the project with director Brendan Boogie. He increased the queer and female representation on the crew and carefully selected filming locations.

“I think you can tell when somebody from the outside is just trying to make something and when someone from the inside is like writing a love letter,” Gibson says.

Filmed over the course of 19 days, the film features lesbian-owned City Girl Café in Cambridge, where Gibson used to work. There are also several other queer owned and frequented locations in the film like Inman Oasis spa, and the film was created with the help of friends and community members.

“I am so excited that the last project that I did before my transition was a feature lesbian rom com set in my hometown, because it was such an important part of my whole identity when I lived in Boston,” Gibson says. “I feel like, what a blessed way to send off an identity that didn’t fit for me anymore.”

Another important production aspect was expanding beyond a coming out story. When he received the script from Boogie, he says it was refreshing to see a different kind of lesbian film.

“It doesn’t interest me in any way to relegate queer stories to just rotate around someone’s queerness only, because every queer person that I know is a fully fleshed out person,” he says. “I just think it’s been done, and I think it was really exciting to read a script where people were fully fleshed out where it both sort of just happened that they were lesbian, but also we pay homage to the lesbian world.”

The Sympathy Card first premiered at the Dances With Films festival in Los Angeles and the Wicked Queer film festival in Boston. It won audience awards at both festivals. The Sympathy Card will be available to stream on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, and VUDU on July 1.



Clare Mulroy
Clare Mulroy
Clare Mulroy is a freelance journalist and trending reporter at USA TODAY. She is a recent graduate of American University and has experience covering entertainment, health, politics, breaking news and climate change. She is currently based in New York City.