January 26th, 2021
STARRING: STANLEY TUCCI, COLIN FIRTH, PIPPA HAYWOOD
DIRECTED BY: HARRY MACQUEEN
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
What I absolutely loved about Supernova is the grace and the honesty it has for human life. There’s never a moment that feels unaware, that the people filling this narrative are breathing, flesh and blood people. It’s about Sam (Colin Firth), a concert pianist, and Tusker (Stanley Tucci), an astrologer and author. They are a happily married couple, living in England, and currently taking a trip through the countryside. They stop at locations to take in the views, look up at the stars, visit friends, family, and enjoy life together before things get worse. It’s revealed that Tusker has dementia, with the condition rapidly progressing, making it extra crucial for the two to share these moments and express their love for one another, before Tusker can’t remember anything. This is what makes Supernova a bittersweet symphony of love and loss, asking the question, if it is better to have love ripped away or to just watch it fade away? Supernova is a gentle and caring story of love, revealing romance in the most honest and heartbreaking of ways.
The debates to have about Supernova is who delivers the better performance, Tucci or Firth? The answer is a cop out because it’s both. This is a joint display of acting, where the chemistry between these two is both beautiful and genuine. Tucci is in the role where he must show his illness and he does not overdo it. His slip ups are subtle, in his hands he struggles to write, in his eyes he struggles to remember names, and each moment is methodical. For Firth he is both saddling the emotions and letting them go. Sam is the caretaker and understandably smothering Tusker. He’s afraid of losing the man he loves. He wants to take away the pain and sadly there’s nothing he can do.
An interesting approach by writer/director Harry Macqueen is not to harbor on the sadness but capture the happiness. The cinematography of Supernova is similar to a crisp bright screensaver image. The various settings of this journey is the countryside, including gorgeous mountain ranges, still lakes, and shining stars in the night sky. It is when Sam and Tusker are indoors where we see their closeness. A tight twin bed is the only room left for the couple to share at Sam’s sister Lilly’s (played by Pippa Haywood) home. The RV is a close quarter ride, where the two share gentle glances. Or when they embrace in a hug in the kitchen. It’s a unique contrast between what’s happening between the couple physically, while Tusker’s mind slowly moves farther away from that connection.
It’s obviously not all happiness in Supernova and it’s not a perfect film either. There’s a bit of a briskness to the narrative structure, which feels too laid back, and where one is expecting the big shouting Oscar bait scenes. We don’t get that here but there’s plenty of manipulative attempts to capture the tears of the audience. For many it will work, and rightfully so, but for me it just never landed flush. It’s the third act where the drama becomes real, with Tusker revealing his wishes as his mind goes, and it is that conundrum that I wish arrived earlier. How we handle the lives of our sick loved ones is incredibly complex and that drama is captured perfectly in Supernova.
There’s never enough movies like Supernova, highlighting a beautiful love between two people, and the performances by Firth and Tucci are sublime. It would make a solid pairing with Ammonite, which is the start of a passionate love, whereas this is where that passion is still burning down the road. Supernova is also an interesting contrast to Florian Zeller’s The Father, which could be a continuation of Supernova if the narrative went longer. And that’s the overarching metaphor to Supernova, about the lasting impression we leave behind, and how our spirits can go on after we’re gone. The relationship of Sam and Tusker left an impact on me, which is why Supernova is a movie that will shine bright for all.
SUPERNOVA IS IN SELECT THEATERS JANUARY 29TH AND ON DEMAND FEBRUARY 16TH
Written by: Leo Brady