When it comes to reviewing SUPERNOVA, it’s hard to really know where to start. I absolutely adored it. But it also kind of broke me…
It’s a slow, beautiful film. About a slow, monstrous illness.
SUPERNOVA is about the lingering death so many of us fear: dementia. A death of the personality and the memory, but not of the body. So we lose what makes us ourselves, but we keep on living.
Tusker (Stanley Tucci) and Sam (Colin Firth) are deeply in love, and looking forward to spending their golden years together. Both of them are artists: Tusker is a celebrated author, and Sam is a concert pianist. But Tusker starts to find writing difficult. A trip to the doctor confirms their worst fears: Tusker has early onset dementia. Their lives are going to change, and change very soon.
Deeply in love, the two men decide to go on a final holiday together. This is where SUPERNOVA opens: a caravan trip to the north of England. Tusker teases Sam’s careful driving. Sam teases Tusker – a man losing his memory – for his insistence on packing for himself. It’s sweet. A sign of how long they’ve been together, and how close they are. It’s awful to know that things are changing. That these men who’ve experienced so much, are being forced apart so soon.
Tusker fears losing control of his life. Sam fears failing to love him until the very end.
I feared ugly-crying in a crowded cinema.
But despite the premise, SUPERNOVA is far from miserable. There’s the loving teasing; the sweet, quiet moments in bed; the glorious nights looking up at the stars. The scenes where Tusker’s illness is becoming more apparent: when he’s struggling, and Sam takes care of him. The celebration of what has been, and the courage they both show in what is to come.
The scenery is beautiful. Autumn in the north of England seems a glorious season. And SUPERNOVA takes it’s time, detailing some stunning locations on the slow drive north. It’s the perfect balance of symbolism (the couple are in the autumn of their time together) and just a celebration of an exquisite, breathtaking landscape. Another place for me to visit, one day.
The symbolism continues with the name of the film itself. A SUPERNOVA is a dying star. But before such a star disappears, it shines brighter than ever. In fact, it’s the collapsed core – the dying – that releases a huge amount of energy, and so much light. Their end makes them glorious. Similarly, Tusker’s illness causes both he and Sam to love so much harder and more intensely, because they know the end is coming.
In the hands of a less deft filmmaker, this would all seem very on the nose. But in that hands of writer and director Harry McQueen, it’s all just perfect. The star gazing scenes are heartbreaking and absolutely beautiful. The love between these men so complete, their memories so weaved with one another. It’s wonderful.
As Tusker says, ‘The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.’
You leave the film wanting so much to see the stars, to find love, and to fully appreciate the wonders in your own life.