Film review by Jason Day and Helen Blaby of Supernova, the drama about a gay man who has dementia and his life partner. Starring Colin Firth, Stanley Tucci and directed by Harry Macqueen.
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Sam (Colin Firth) and Tusker (Stanley Tucci) traveling across England in their campervan to visit friends and loved ones. Tusker, a novelist, has been diagnosed with dementia and despite lapses in memory, still retains his sharp wit and tongue, keen observation and intellect and his love of astronomy.
Sam is a successful concert pianist but now spends the bulk of his days caring for Tusker. The two are very much in love, although Sam’s sister Lilly (Pippa Haywood) is concerned that Sam assumes to much of the burden of caring and worries what will happen as Tusker’s condition deteriorates.
At a blissful surprise party they reacquaint with old friends – possibly for the last time – before renting a holiday cottage in the middle of nowhere, making of the most of the time they have together.
Review, by @Reelreviewer and @blabers
You’re still you Tusker. You’re still the guy he fell in love with.
No. I’m not. I just look like him.Lilly and Tusker discuss life in the uncomfortably honest Supernova.
According to film oracle the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) there are, somewhere out there, 36 feature length, short subject or TV format movies with the title Supernova (or variations thereof) and four more currently in development.
Based solely on those figures, this Supernova could have been just another spot in the endless cinematic constellation of such titled films. Thankfully, it is a star that shines super-bright and stands apart from anything that sounds like it or anything that covers the same subject matter.
It’s a toss-up between the lead actors as to who is the supernova – a star that suddenly increases greatly in brightness – as Firth and Tucci both put in mega-wattage performances that are convincing and authentic.
Straight actors playing gay men are two-a-penny these days, but snogging another actor’s mush and ‘rutting’ between or above the sheets are relatively easy for most heteros to simulate.
A brief aside. Scenes like these in movies and TV make me wince. I usually avoid ‘lavender cinema’ – hate that phrase! – like the plague. I still can’t bring myself to watch It’s a Sin; yes, I have heard how great it is and has many gay actors in it and I want to believe it but…what if it’s the same as the others?!
(Back to the review…) But to nail the emotional closeness, the intimacy, between two men who are in love not lust, that is something else. Here, Firth and Tucci are on another level.
They slip their characters on like a favourite, comfortable jumper and easily make you feel these men, with their playful bickering – Tucci declaring the standard sat-nav voice sounds like “…fucking Margaret Thatcher! First Section 28, now…!” is so on the money – are lovers, life partners, best friends, the whole thing and more. Let any, poor homophobe beware!
I’ll hand over the next few lines to my good pal and fellow cineaste, Helen Blaby for her views:
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film that made me both melancholy but also uplifted at the same time. I barely took a breath in the last half hour.
Beautifully shot, with fantastic dialogue and apparently effortless acting, I think this is one of the best films I’ve seen in a very long time
You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a disaster movie – or during the opening sequence, as pinpoints of light appear on the scree, a trip to the opticians! – but this quiet, contemplative piece couldn’t be further removed.
It’s a road movie yes, but our characters are not journeying to some grand ambition to self-actualise, or to tick boxes on some fantastical bucket list, but they take a modest trip to out to accept, in a rational and human way, the inevitable and inescapable.
The back to basics production matches writer/director Macqueen’s naturalistic, unsensational approach. Sometimes, it’s the little details in a movie that show its quality. Tusker and Sam are in their camper van chatting before bed and there is a faint whirring in the background. It’s the clock or some sort of motor that needs to keep going – possibly the fridge – but who cares where the noise comes from, because it’s there.
In a scene where a director would usually call for ‘quiet on set’, Maqueen lets this annoying, omnipresent sound continue. He reminds us that life continues in all its aggravating, noise glory, even for lovers facing adversity.
The location for the cottage is in the Lake District in England, a stark but apt choice to film. Both men are presented as celestial beings and Tusker is a fan of space-gazing, so why would not be at home in a landscape as barren and formless as a meteor or the moon?
I really like this film. No, more than that, I love it. It’s life-affirming, but for me it is also life-changing.
It’s so good, I might even give It’s a Sin a whirl.
Cast & credits
Director: Harry Macqueen. 1hr 33mins/93mins. BBC Films/British Film Institute (BFI)/Quiddity Films/The Bureau. (15)
Writer: Harry Macqueen.
Colin Firth, Stanley Tucci, Pippa Haywood, Peter MacQueen, James Dreyfuss, Nina Marlin, Ian Drysdale, Sarah Woodward, Lori Campbell, Daneka Etchells, Halema Hussein, Julie Hannan.