Look to the stars to guide you.
While Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci have both played gay characters across their illustrious careers, never have they starred in a film together as lovers. All that changes with Harry Macqueen’s Supernova, where the two play a couple who go on a life-changing road trip.
Like its title connotes, the film opens with a shot of stars in the open sky. We hear a discordant soundtrack, as we see pianist Sam (Firth) and writer Tusker (Tucci) snuggling up in bed. Supernova wastes no time in getting the story off the ground, as our next scene already sees them in an RV, ready to set-off. As the couple discuss the benefits of paper maps over GPS, it becomes clear that they’re going on a road trip.
The twist to all this? It’s all because Tusker has been diagnosed with dementia, his condition rapidly degenerating as time goes by. It’s clear that something is up when Sam returns from grocery shopping to find Tusker missing. Frantically searching for him, there’s a huge sigh of relief as the two reunite in an embrace, the fear evident on Sam’s face, taking a moment in the bathroom to tear up and release the pressure. As Tusker’s condition worsens, the two decide to make a tape together, in an attempt to create new memories of their relationship. But even these memories may fade before Tusker knows it.
Amidst such doom and gloom however, Supernova is always ready to remind us of the beauty in life we can always appreciate, dementia or not. Approaching a lake, Sam and Tusker get out of the RV and stand in front of it, gazing out and admiring its sheer size, while they put their hands over each other’s shoulder, almost as if they’re supporting each other in a show of strength. As the camera pans out, it hits us just how small and minuscule we are compared to the world, and how much beauty exists around us. There’s a moment of tenderness as Tusker guides Sam in finding the milky way, and we too immerse ourselves in the tranquility of it all.
As they reach the family home, Sam is pleasantly surprised by Tusker with an intimate gathering of family and friends, and have dinner together. Knowing exactly when to hit us with the emotional moments, we watch as Tusker makes a failed attempt to give a speech, with Sam helping him read it. The overwhelming feeling of helplessness threatens to possess Sam once again, and he retreats to the RV. Opening Tusker’s box, he is devastated to see how much his writing has deteriorated, no longer able to write as much as he used to, clear pages fading to paragraphs, to barely legible words. Firth’s performance is quiet but powerful as he goes through the other things in the box, listens to a tape containing one of Tusker’s personal notes, and reflects on the other things in it.
With their stay ending, the two bid farewell as they drive off into the long winding country roads, the camera capturing the magnificence of the scenery and almost symbolic of the journey we all take in life. Eventually reaching a house they planned on settling down in. Sam takes Tusker aside and A hard conversation follows, as Tusker replies how he doesn’t want to be a burden anymore, to which Sam assures him that he will be there at the end with him.
As they sit by the fireplace, Tusker tells Sam that all he wanted was people to remember him for who he was, not who he is going to become, fearful that he will soon forget his own identity. The fragility of life is clearly encapsulated in Tusker’s words, and once again, Sam takes some time out to be with himself, heading out to the front lawn to just lie down and gaze up at the sky, wondering if the stars will be there to guide him.
The next morning, Tusker awakens to hear Sam playing the piano, Walking down the stairs, he sees the box in the kitchen. They embrace, acknowledging at last the need to put aside the fear and the anxiety, to just enjoy the limited time they have left together, and appreciate the little things in life. And as the film draws to a close, Sam plays Tusker’s favourite song at his recital, almost as if he is playing in memory of him.
Taking us on this journey with gorgeous sights yet with all the winding and off the track roads, emotional highs and lows, and lessons on what it means to live, Supernova is a triumph of storytelling. Just like an actual supernova, there is so much power in the film, thanks to its careful pacing, and simple but effective narrative, reminding us of our significance to those closest to us, to appreciate the vast universe all around and to just enjoy the ride.
Supernova is available to watch from 18th February 2021 at Golden Village cinemas.