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Film Review: Supernova

19 October 20 words: Joanna Hoyes

Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth each offer a deeply moving performance in Supernova, says Joanna Hoyes...

Director: Harry Macqueen
Starring: Stanley Tucci, Colin Firth
Running time: 93 minutes

I always get a bit nervous about films that I know are going to make me cry. In fact, I tend to go out of my way to avoid them. I’ve never seen Titanic all the way through, I watched The Notebook once and I just can’t cope with The Snowman at Christmas. No one likes to feel sad and sometimes it’s easier to avoid difficult subjects, but even out of great sadness comes life affirming hope which is what Supernova achieves brilliantly. 

The film follows the story of Tusker, a novelist who is suffering from dementia, played by Stanley Tucci. His adoring partner and talented musician, Sam, played by Colin Firth, watches on, neither of them with much control over proceedings. 

There isn’t any particularly new ground covered here; no shocking plot twists or unexpected emotions. Tusker feels as though he is losing control of his life as his ability to remember gradually slips away and Sam silently suffers as the partner who cannot do anything but care for the man he has loved for many years until the end, which he believes is his right. It is a simplistic plot, however the core of this film is the pure unadorned, unconditional love between these two characters. 

There are moments of humour as there so often are in real life when we are faced with tragedy; a particular highlight is Firth falling out of a tiny single bed they squash into one evening. It’s a much better film for the lack of action and histrionics because it allows us to focus on the most important aspect of this cruel disease: the love that remains, no matter what.

Heartbreakingly inevitable yet an affirmation of life and love

We are consoled by the stunning and reassuring English scenery. The two men embark on a road trip which we know to be predominantly filmed in the Lake District although it is never specifically stated in the film. The comforting tones of October are beautifully shot by director, Harry Macqueen, as Sam and Tusker drive through the winding countryside, the journey a symbol of their endurance and the late season a metaphor for the autumn of Tusker’s life.  

The damp green fields and the changing trees and the glances full of compassion are soundtracked by Keaton Henson’s exquisite score. The classical music feels as though it is physically tugging at your heart and it is somewhat of a relief when Firth plays us out with a heartfelt crescendo on the piano at the end.

The fact that Supernova portrays a same sex couple dealing with dementia is refreshing indeed and Firth and Tucci’s obvious chemistry and connection is unquestionable but if you replaced them with a female couple or a heterosexual couple, the film would not be altered. The love, the trust and the care is universal and beyond any notions of gender or sexuality. Firth and Tucci are however, without doubt, two of the finest actors of their generation and they portray this story effortlessly. 

Heartbreakingly inevitable yet an affirmation of life and love, Supernova is a subtle and moving tale of illness and intimacy.

Did you know? Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth are very close friends in real life. Tucci was the first to be cast and showed his friend the script before even asking director Harry Macqueen if he actually wanted to hire Firth.

Supernova is released on Friday 27 November

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