Two old friends and lovers, Sam and Tusker, are on a road trip in Britain’s scenic and idyllic Lake District. They’re on perhaps the last holiday they’ll ever spend together.
Sam (Colin Firth) and Tusker (Stanley Tucci) are the central characters in Harry Macqueen’s poignant movie, Supernova, which opens on VOD platforms on February 16.
The pair are squabbling. “How did you come to being this person?” Sam asks archly. And then he clasps Tusker’s wrist in a gesture of affection.
Both men are under pressure. Tusker, a writer, has been diagnosed with dementia. Sam, a musician, can’t bear the thought that his best friend is falling apart before his eyes.
“Can you tell it’s gotten worse?” Tusker asks plaintively.
“I wish this holiday wouldn’t end,” Sam replies, trying to blot out Tusker’s illness.
Supernova unfolds within the span of a few days, packing in a lifetime of memories. Driving past autumnal mountains, meadows, forests and lakes in a camper, they reminisce, visit Sam’s sister and her family, discuss Tusker’s condition, and grapple with the difficult problems that doubtless lie ahead.
Firth and Tucci deliver powerful yet understated performances in a reflective film that subtlety explores the uncertainties and terrors of dementia.
Tusker, a clear-eyed realist, has dispensed with all illusions about his future, but Sam is still hopeful they can share many more years together. “I want to be with you every moment,” he says, his anguish spilling over. “It’s important.”
Although Tusker is writing a book, he has reached the point where even the simplest task is beyond his diminishing capabilities. And when he rises from the dinner table to give a speech about himself and his life with Sam, he pauses in distress, allowing his partner to take over.
In one of the most eloquent scenes, Sam glances at Tusker’s notebook. It is replete with crossed-out and half-finished sentences, tentative beginnings and, saddest of all, empty pages.
An astronomy buff, Tusker compares himself to a dying star. It’s a fitting metaphor in a film so heavily invested in cosmic questions.
They loom large as Tusker and Sam delve into challenging issues that will likely affect them sooner rather than later. At first, Sam claims their lives won’t change, but modifies his tune when he admits he’s consumed and frightened by Tusker’s condition. Understandably enough, Tusker wants to be remembered for who he was, not for who he has become.
Macqueen, who’s adept a wringing out deeply-felt emotions, delivers a film that is not only heart-felt but empathetic.