“Supernova” is writer/director Harry Macqueen’s second film. He brings together two acting heavyweights — Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci — for this heavy, set in the UK drama. Firth’s Sam (a celebrated pianist) and Tucci’s Tusker (a successful author and astronomy aficionado) have been a couple for a long time. They decide to take a road trip in their camper to the location of Sam’s comeback concert. Along the way they visit friends, family and scenic places from their past. Dog Ruby tags along, too.
What’s the real purpose of this getaway? Tusker is in the early/mid stages of dementia. He’s already starting to forget things, and soon he won’t remember much of anything. So this trip is intended to be one last hurrah before the inevitable.
That inevitability is constantly on minds of the partners, and we experience that dread as well. About 80% of the 90-minute runtime is simply Firth and Tucci — interacting. They battle through major ups and downs (mostly downs) over these few days. There are a handful of minor characters, but their purpose is simply to serve the two leads.
“Supernova” is all emotion. And while several of the dramatic sequences are quite effective, and Macqueen’s intentions are genuine, the pathos is very heavy-handed. A little restraint — or at least some breathing room between the constant scenes of sadness — may have made the overall experience a little more manageable. There are also two story holes (a brief one early and a critical one about midway through) that are impossible to ignore.
Both Firth and Tucci deliver respectable, though not “knock your socks off” performances. And here’s a good tidbit: the two actors went to Macqueen early in production and asked if they could switch roles. The inexperienced director allowed it. And the move worked. After having experienced their performances it’s tough to imagine them playing each other’s part.
“Supernova” is the latest in a recent series of adult illness films, joining “Clouds”, “Blackbird”, “The Father” and “All My Life”. Sections also remind me of older entries in the genre, including “Still Alice” and “Amour”. But none of those (with possibly the exception of “Amour”) are as relentlessly somber as “Supernova”.
This is definitely worth seeing, because of the two leads. But if, like me, you’re not all teared-up at the end, then it didn’t achieve its ultimate goal.