I am a Romeo at heart and I love rom-coms too.
That feels like it should be the opening line on my Tinder profile, or heck, maybe even my Facebook page. Instead, it is a good way to sum up my feelings for Brendan Boogie’s “The Sympathy Card,” which sees its Dances With Films Festival premiere this evening.
The key to Boogie’s story is that its characters and its situations remain grounded and down to earth and that’s because at its core is a story about two people who are genuinely in love. To get there though, you need two people who are complete and polar opposites from one another.
This is where Josie (Nika Ezell Pappas) and Emma (Petey J. Gibson) come in to play. Literally, that’s how the story begins. Jose, who is a basket case and doesn’t know any better, begins an awkward conversation with someone on the sidelines of a soccer field, with Josie being an alternate player.
Josie is eventually called into action, when she lands her elbow square on Emma’s nose. It results in a dinner date and eventually love. Boogie moves us quickly through the “love” stage because the film isn’t really centered on the initial act of falling in love.
But, that’s not to say that Boogie rushes this either for there is a secondary point, which will come out later in the film. The love stage does eventually lead to the wedding stage in a beautifully shot wedding. The weather was perfect, Josie was a beaming bride and Emma, who is always at odds with her mom, Margaret (Dorothy Dwyer) in attendance as Emma eggs her on.
These are the smaller details that define who Josie and Emma are as the newly wedded couple face their biggest obstacle, and on her deathbed, Emma urges Josie to find someone new to love while she is still around to approve of her choice.
You’d think I’m a cynic for laughing at the thought that a dying lover would tell their partner to find someone to love while they’re still alive, but that’s the kind of person Emma is. That and I am far too like Josie to even dream of up something so audacious.
This is where Boogie’s details pay off as Josie awkwardly begins the search for a new lover. She struggles even more. That is until she comes to the attention of Siobhan (Lauren Neal). There is a spark between the two, the same way that Josie and Emma found each other.
Nika Ezell Pappas comes across the screen with genuine affection; the camera loves her and the camera loves it even more when she and Petey share the screen; their chemistry even with Emma’s declining health is still kind towards one another.
“The Sympathy Card” doesn’t feel sentimental, nor should it. Boogie uses the comedy to reinforce the drama and the world is better for it. So too are Josie and Emma.
“The Sympathy Card” is Recommended.
“The Sympathy Card”
Written and Directed by: Brendan Boogie
Starring: Nika Ezell Pappas, Petey J. Gibson, Lauren Neal, Grayson Powell, Kelly MacFarland, Dorothy Dwyer
A Broken Gates Film, 94 minutes, Not Rated.