REEL Review – Supernova (2020)

Director: Harry Macqueen | 1h 33mins | Drama

Sam (Colin Firth) and Tusker (Stanley Tucci) take a road trip across England in order to see their friends and family, relaxing Tusker as well as he deals with his newly diagnosed Dementia. As the trip goes on, the two struggle to avoid the future that awaits them.

Harry Macqueen’s touching new Drama is about a couple, Sam and Tusker, on a road trip in England. They drive merrily along the English countryside surrounded by nothing but the vast greenery and earthy air to breath in, exchanging in playful squabbles and artistic connection, being too afraid to face the ending that is upon them. The film achieves such an emotional reaction from you, and that’s down to two performances from seasoned veterans and a withheld emotional core that is ready to explode.

Tusker is recently diagnosed with dementia, a disease that’s very hard to express legitimately on screen. But the film, much like Sam and Tusker, is much more focused on what will happen. Instead of showing us the disease it would rather show the person, and how they quietly contemplate on their dark future as well as reminisce in order to remember. We’ve only really seen disease handled so delicately, in recent years, by Still Alice (2014). A heartbreaking endeavour in it’s own right, what set’s Macqueen’s a part is the unsaid connection between his two central characters, and how the future will affect both of them.

Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth are excellent, they set foundations of a genuine relationship early on through jokes and mutual intelligence and build from there – and despite it being such a heavy film in parts the two handle every scene delicately and expertly. There are specific scenes in which they excel however, tender little moments when the actors get to flex their well known talents. Firth is particularly good during their visit to his sister’s where, at a surprise party, he reads a speech that Tusker has written but unable to follow. Natural and sympathetic with everything, it’s only when the speech mentions Sam by name that he shows his bottled up emotion.

It’s a film that could have gone wrong at so many opportunities, but Macqueen has outdone himself with overwhelming maturity.

Scene after scene is delicately composed with subdued emotion, which is beautifully handled by Macqueen both in script and in direction. Often films of such tender themes destroy their own product with overly expositional bursts of emotion, perhaps in a bid to win big come award season, but Supernova holds onto the deep thoughts of it’s characters until they are ready to engage them with intelligence and grace. It’s a film that could have gone wrong at so many opportunities, but Macqueen has outdone himself with overwhelming maturity.

As mentioned, this isn’t a film about the descent, but rather the honest and reluctant contemplation we must come to terms with when faced with such life altering change. After all, once we’ve lost our identity what do we have left? The reserved nature of the film comes to devastating boiling point when Sam and Tusker make their final stop at a small cottage. Their composure soon turns into emotional spill, and despite being littered with one cliched line after the other, it’s still as affective as it is heartbreaking.

It’s a film that comes so close to feeling forced and overly sentimental, but Macqueen’s tender Drama is firing on all cylinders to make sure that it strikes the right balance. Beautifully melancholic and emotionally reserved, Supernova will continually break your heart until it’s very bitter end.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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