When we recently discussed the trailer for Supernova in one of our TrailerChat posts, I could tell that we were in for a fairly intense depiction of dementia and its effect on loved ones, delivered by a couple of veteran actors at the top of their game. Consequently, it was one of the movies I was most looking forward to as part of this years London Film Festival, and while it wasn’t quite as full-on or emotional for me as I was expecting, that’s certainly not the fault of Colin Firth or Stanley Tucci, who are both outstanding.
“We’re not going back, you know,” Sam (Firth) says to husband Tusker (Tucci) as they head off in their campervan for a road trip. He’s referring to any items they might have needed for the trip which are left behind, but those words will prove to hold a much deeper meaning as their journey progresses. Tusker, a best-selling author, has deliberately left his medication at home, having decided that it is having no effect in his battle with dementia. When Sam leaves Tusker in the van to head into a supermarket for supplies, he returns to find Tusker missing – a frantic drive down nearby country lanes finds him standing alone, lost and confused. His mind is clearly beginning to fail him.
As they put the incident behind them and continue their journey, we get a real sense of the love and commitment they both share. As they travel through the beautiful scenery of the Lake District, they bicker and joke with each other, like a gay version of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon series, The Trip. “It isn’t even satisfying half the time,” Tusker admits after teasing Sam. When asked why he bothers anymore, he just smiles and replies “Because of the other half.”
Tusker continues to work on a new novel, but is finding it increasingly difficult to write anymore and has instead become preoccupied with gazing at the night sky, fascinated with astronomy. Sam, a semi-retired concert pianist, has taken a break to join Tusker on one last road-trip, revisiting locations from their lives together. They stop off at the home of Sam’s sister and her family, where a surprise birthday party brings together old friends and distant family. A chance to reminisce and take stock of what the future holds as Tusker continues to deteriorate. But a discovery during the party leads to some more serious discussions between Sam and Tusker, forcing them to acknowledge and attempt to come to terms with what lies ahead for them both.
Supernova didn’t head in the direction I expected it to, or deliver it in the way I envisioned from the trailer. For the most part, it’s just simple conversations between two lovers, sometimes playful, sometimes deadly serious. But it is delivered by two incredible actors, on peak-form and with such wonderful chemistry. And while it didn’t quite leave me feeling as emotional as it did for many others who watched it as part of the festival, it certainly managed to make a lasting impact.