SUPERNOVA (2020) is a small and intimate drama about dementia and love. It follows a gay couple, played by Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci, who go on a small holiday whilst Tucci’s character deals with the dementia he was diagnosed with two years earlier. From that premise comes tough decisions for the characters, which allows SUPERNOVA to give real weight to what is essentially a movie about very little.
Firth and Tucci are both accustomed to much bigger and flashier movies. Even the indie films they appear in are generally bigger than this. In all but a few scenes of SUPERNOVA, they are the only characters onscreen. This is certainly a change of pace for both of them, and some of the most mundane and slight work they have ever done. Yet they really excel in a film that allows them the breathing room to simply act. They really do seem like a couple who have been together for many years, both bickering and showing great affection for one another.
SUPERNOVA is a very ordinary film at times, with the characters wandering supermarkets and sitting on couches. Though sadly the dialogue is less naturalistic than the presentation. To maximise drama, SUPERNOVA does not always take the most believable route. It does go down a couple of twists and turns. Yet the final act becomes emotionally draining because of that. There are tough conversations to be had and tears to be wept, which allows the two leads to really sell the love and emotions they share. They are trying to save their love but losing it due to illness. SUPERNOVA does go to dark places, which may upset some, but these are places many people genuinely end up. Tucci’s character is scared of losing control and being defined by his dementia. Firth plays someone afraid to be alone. The ending of SUPERNOVA heads towards something uncertain, but the finale is beautifully done.
SUPERNOVA is a quaint little movie at first. It’s very much a film of cardigans and sweaters. With Firth’s greying hair and tender expressions, he seems exactly right as the firm, experienced man encountering a pain he cannot stop as he watches the love of his life struggle. As the couple travel around England in a campervan, visiting friends and family, their journey feels final. Both characters are creatives, but now they are running out of ideas. SUPERNOVA visits some of the UK’s most beautiful scenery, with dry stone walls, grassy mountains, winding roads, and cloudy skies all sitting as a backdrop. It would be almost romantic, if not for the struggles of the characters. Writer-director Harry Macqueen has created something bittersweet and moving. It is not a particularly fresh movie, nor one that is as natural as it perhaps should be, but SUPERNOVA is nevertheless a beautiful little work.