Brace yourselves, though.
Supernova nearly slipped under our radar—and we don’t want it to slip under yours. The romantic drama, helmed by director Harry Macqueen, is about partners of 20 years who take a road trip when one is diagnosed with dementia and stars Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth at the absolute top of their game. It’s a modest, lovely elegy that doesn’t pull punches.
Originally cast in each other’s roles, Tucci and Firth are impeccable as Tusker, a magnetic author with dementia, and Sam, a former pianist. Each fully embodies their character, and their tenderness for one another radiates from the screen, a crackling fire burning underneath every scene. When Tucci and Firth are together, it's as if the camera can't get close enough. At best, it evokes the claustrophobia of fears you can’t avoid, fights you need to have, intimacy when it's suffocating. At worst, this approach can exacerbate the occasionally stilted language, but (oh, boy!), do you understand the temptation. When you have actors like Tucci and Firth, you want them to fill up the frame.
As Tusker and Sam weigh the cost of dementia for themselves and one another, we are never asked to pass judgment on the way these men hold and handle their suffering. The film is the better for it, and ends right when it needs to, keeping the focus off dementia—a story-stealer in both Supernova and real-life—and on the tender, graceful love of Tusker and Sam. And while it exacts a heavy toll—I can’t say I didn’t feel exhausted afterward—it’s well worth the emotional price of admittance.
The film has its flaws. As mentioned, a few lines of dialogue feel like imitations, rather than the real thing, and the camera isn’t always where you want it to be (although the shot composition of every idyllic English landscape is surpassingly, almost overwhelmingly beautiful). Parts of the movie feel more like settings for events than actual events if you follow, but through it all, Macqueen’s North Star is his characters, and Tucci and Firth live them wonderfully.
Supernova isn’t all despair and sorrow. It’s knowing, and witty, and vibrant. Watch it because Macqueen, Tucci, Firth, and company have created a real, lived-in world, and real, lived-in men. Yes, they’re suffering—but the least we can do is sit with them in it. The least we can do is not look away.
Watch it this week in theaters, or next week on demand, starting February 16. Let us know what you think in the comments.