No, this isn’t another space movie, though the title may give you that impression. It’s a placid roadtrip movie, featuring a middle-aged gay couple riding through England’s Lake District in a camper van, pondering life’s joys and sorrows in the shadow of a terminal dementia diagnosis. If it were anyone other than Stanley Tucci (Big Night, The Hunger Games) and Colin Firth (A Single Man, The King’s Speech) in the lead roles, it might not resonate all that much. But the two actors – and longtime friends – share an easy chemistry that is quietly compelling to watch, under the direction of Harry MacQueen.
As the story unfolds, we come to realize that Sam (Firth) and Tusker (Tucci) are on a farewell tour, of sorts – visiting friends, family and places from their past. The couple has been together 20 years, navigating life’s ups and down with laughter and love, and playful bickering. They still look for the laughs where they can find them, using wry humor to fight off the tears. (“Welcome to ‘Dementia Hour’ on the BBC4’”, Tusker jokes when recording a keepsake conversation with Sam).
I read that Tucci and Firth decided to swap roles, and writer/director MacQueen agreed. So as I was watching, I couldn’t help replaying each scene in my head with the roles reversed. Both actors are so good that I don’t think it would have made all that much difference.
Supernova plays with an understated sensibility, focusing on an authentic and honest relationship. It happens to be a same-sex relationship, but that is largely irrelevant. It’s about living life, planning for death, and the weight of illness on two people who love each other very much and don’t want to see the other suffer as words and memories start slipping away.
Movies about dementia seem to be popping up at a steady clip, and Supernova may not rank as particularly memorable in the long run. But it is worth watching for Tucci and Firth and a quiet ride along the scenic English countryside.