“You’re not supposed to mourn someone while they’re still alive.” Summarizing the theme of Harry Macqueen’s poignant, heartbreaking drama Supernova in one line of dialogue, Stanley Tucci gives a career-best performance as dementia-ridden Tusker. With an equally dynamic Colin Firth as his longtime partner Sam, the two travel across England as a makeshift farewell to family and friends.
The devastating subject matter and weight of the film unfortunately fit the tone of the time we’re living in, when death is at the forefront of people’s minds. Here, a slow death is inevitable for writer Tusker who has good days and bad days, sometimes lapsing in his ability to button a shirt or read a letter aloud. Macqueen’s subtle approach to Tusker’s decline makes Sam’s frustration all the more compelling.
It’s a love story, albeit a peek into the final chapter of one. The homosexually aspect is never dwelled on, looked down upon or used as a plot device – rather the opposite. It’s an endearing partnership from the opening scene as Sam and Tusker drive their old RV through the English countryside, stop at roadside diners and take their dog for a walk. The “normalcy” of it all adds to the undercurrent of bleakness, with both men knowing what the future holds and trying to navigate what’s best for both of them.
While there are moments of levity (provided mainly by Tusker as he pokes fun of the situation), it’s consistently and overwhelmingly sad. When you have veteran performers like Tucci and Firth, though, sadness can lend itself to a cathartic viewing experience. Such is the case with Supernova.
In select theaters January 29. Digital on Demand February 16th.