CAST: Colin Firth, Stanley Tucci, James Dreyfus, Pippa Haywood, Sarah Woodward, Peter MacQueen, Nina Marlin, Ian Drysdale, Lori Campbell, Daneka Etchells
RUNNING TIME: 93 mins
BASICALLY…: A couple (Firth and Tucci) travel together across the Lake District for a holiday, and come to grips with certain complications in their relationship…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
If you’ve been to the cinema at least once since May 17th, chances are you’ll have seen the trailer for Supernova play in front of whatever movie you saw. It appears that the movie has been getting a major publicity boost in the lead-up to its theatrical release, so much so that I have now seen the trailer for this movie before more films than I have some of the much bigger summer movies (it even played in front of, of all things, Peter Rabbit 2 at one point; that’s how much they’re really pushing this movie on audiences).
I’m not complaining in the slightest, however, because not only is Supernova a rather great film to be advertising anyway – I first saw it last October during the BFI London Film Festival, and have now revisited it just before it finally comes out for general audiences, and both times I have been extraordinarily moved – but to see a film like this, with the subject matter that it has, and with the themes and the messages that it has, receive a noticeable publicity push that’s on par with, say, A Quiet Place Part 2 or In the Heights, is incredibly encouraging to behold.
Writer and director Harry Macqueen’s drama is about middle-aged couple Sam (Colin Firth) and Tusker (Stanley Tucci), who we meet as they are travelling in their RV for a trip to the Lake District. They have been together for a number of years, and still appear to be very much in love, but Tusker has recently been diagnosed with early onset dementia, which is causing Sam to worry about how he shall be looking after his partner when his mind inevitably fades away. As the two of them visit the glorious sights in the area, and even find time to stop in and spend some time with family members, Sam and Tusker’s relationship is severely tested in the wake of a shocking revelation regarding their future together.
As I mentioned in my previous review for Supernova, the film is an incredibly heartfelt ode to love in all its purest and most universal forms; Macqueen never makes the main characters’ sexuality an issue in any way shape or form, nor is it even mentioned by anyone else at any point, thereby making it easy for any couple of any gender or sexual orientation to imagine themselves in the shoes of either Firth’s Sam or Tucci’s Tusker, and not be distracted by the simple fact that they are two gay men. The beauty of both Macqueen’s writing and direction is that they also feel like a real couple who have been together for some years, and that they clearly still harbour strong feelings for one another, even as they lightly tease each other about driving too slow or the fact that their sat-nav sounds like Margaret Thatcher. They both feel like real, well-rounded people with exceptionally complex emotions, individual personalities, and their own ideas of what their future holds in the wake of Tusker’s devastating diagnosis. Crucially, both Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci – delivering some of their best work in years – are fantastic together, playing off the fact that they are good friends in real life but also not being afraid to go places both physically and emotionally that you rarely see other actors of similar calibre take themselves nowadays.
Seeing the film a second time, though, does open up some new interesting conversation points, which I feel are worth talking about without going too heavily into spoilers (since, ultimately, my goal is to try and convince you, the reader, to go and see the film at your earliest convenience, without being told too much information about what happens). For one, it offers an intriguing dynamic between the two leads where there is some kind of power play, but not in a malicious sense; Sam is obviously eager to look after Tusker as his memory starts to become more and more fluid, to a point where he is willing to put his career as a pianist aside so he can care for his partner full-time, but Tusker – even though he is already starting to show strong signs of his dementia, whether it’s forgetting how to button a shirt or wandering off down a country lane – still has enough of his mind in one piece to determine that he does not want to become a burden on anyone else. The question raised here is, which one of them has the right idea, especially when certain things come to light? Again, the writing here is so good that it presents solid arguments on both sides, and makes each of them feel like rational decisions made by people who have clearly thought them through, while again the performances do an excellent job of allowing you to see things from their characters’ point of view in order to understand where they’re coming from. Whether you agree with the overall conflict or not, it does bring to light a whole new perspective on these two characters’ relationship that might not have been picked up on during an initial screening (I am guilty of not catching this the first time I watched this film).
The film tackles moral dilemmas and the challenges of still clinging onto love even in the direst of circumstances, and what’s even better is that it all feels entirely earned. Supernova establishes a wonderful tone that never becomes too sentimental, some absolutely stunning shots of the Lake District as captured by cinematographer Dick Pope, and slowly but carefully works its way to an emotionally resonant climax that really does leave a lump in the throat. It is not a film that should be defined solely by its LGBTQ+ status; it is a beautiful and incredibly endearing film that will make anyone, regardless of their age, gender, sexuality, race etc, feel warm inside, and it is extremely relieving to see such a film not only receive deserved appraisal from critics and audiences, but also get such a major nationwide release where the trailers have become more prominent than the ones for Fast & Furious 9. That, one day, is what we can all aspire to one day with all major and minor films of LGBTQ+ roots.
SO, TO SUM UP…
Supernova is a beautiful ode to love in all its purest and universal forms, from a script by director Harry Macqueen which emotionally portrays a devastating situation for its main couple – fantastically played by Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci – with humanity, resilience and above all else compassion, containing all of it inside one of the year’s most romantic and emotional films.