On his first outing behind the camera, actor turned filmmaker Harry Macqueen crafted an indie hit on a low-budget and played one of the central parts himself. In contrast to this for his sophomore feature, he has brought together two of the finest actors in the business. Relationship drama Supernova stars Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci as husbands Sam and Tusker, whose lives are turned upside down due to the latter’s dementia diagnosis. They embark on a road trip in an old RV whilst coming to terms with their situation, visiting old friends along the way.
Both independently successful in their careers, Sam as a pianist and Tusker as a novelist, they have what looks like an idyllic, financially comfortable, middle-class marriage. In the early conversations, Macqueen’s tender script sees them bicker over monotonous sat-nav directions and poking fun at one another. Against the pleasant, picturesque backdrops of Britain’s sprawling countryside, the viewer is invited into their warm dynamic and made privy to their witty in-jokes. This emotional engineering cleverly lays the foundations for the serious scenes that we inevitably know will follow.
Right from the opening moments, its clear that the film is in safe hands with Firth and Tucci. The shared history of Sam and Tusker is ever-present, and their connection is effervescent as they trade the playful dialogue back and forth. Because of the deep affection the characters have for one another, their communication is almost telepathic, and this is beautifully portrayed in the expressions and glances between the performers. As the plot develops, their exchanges carry increasingly more weight, but the tone remains equally life-affirming as it is heartbreaking.
Handing the material carefully and sensitively, Harry Macqueen’s understated direction and two excellent leading turns make this a challenging yet hugely rewarding portrayal of love through adversity. Giving a nugget of wisdom to a family friend in one scene, Tusker quotes paradoxical writer GK Chesterton when he says, “we will not starve for lack of wonders, but from lack of wonder”. In a strong year for film but a very tough year for cinema, Supernova is undoubtedly a work of wonder.
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