In Harry Macqueen’s Supernova, Sam (Colin Firth) is a classical pianist, and his partner Tusker (Stanley Tucci) is a writer. Now middle-aged, the couple have been together for decades. They know how to press each other’s buttons, but are still very much in love.
One day they decide to dust off the old camper van and take a road trip across England with their dog. Tusker has started on a new book, but that seems to have stalled. Meanwhile Sam is about to give his first recital for a while. All seems in order until an incident when Tusker disappears with the dog and Sam is beside himself. Tusker has early onset dementia (diagnosed two years earlier) and it is getting worse. His mind isn’t what it used to be and he knows it.
Tusker wants to keep things as normal as he can, but that is becoming increasingly difficult. Sam has given up his career to spend all his time with his partner, of whom he is very protective. They visit places they have been, including a picturesque lake, and stop in on Sam’s sister, husband and daughter, who greet them warmly. Increasingly, this is looking like Tusker’s last hurrah. A number of incidents occur on the road, culminating in a revelation that rocks Sam to his core.
Supernova is a beautiful, sensitive portrait. Macqueen (Hinterland) – who wrote and directed the work – crafts a memorable vehicle for the supreme talents of Firth and Tucci to inhabit. That they do with their usual aplomb. While the dialogue is meaningful, much of the film’s success comes down to their expressions and silences. They deftly negotiate the distinct personality traits of the characters they portray.
The movie is contemplative. Nothing happens at speed and that, of course, is deliberate to deal appropriately with the subject matter. Cinematographer Dick Pope does a fine job giving the picture a comfortable homely feel, while capturing some stunning vistas.
Facing up to the reality the movie presents is uncomfortable, harsh and unrelenting. Supernova does so with distinction.
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Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.