Staney Tucci, Colin Firth face the end of the road in Harry Macqueen’s ’Supernova’
Dir. Harry Macqueen. UK. 2020. 94 minutes.
Harry Macqueen’s second film Supernova is a melancholic, tender two-hander with committed performances from larger-than-life actors Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth in an otherwise small-scale piece. They play an older, very loving, gay couple who, as we meet them, are on the road in an ageing camper van, squabbling as they go about the merits of maps versus the stern, Margaret Thatcher-like Satnav. In a sad film reminiscent of Still Alice, Tusker (Tucci) is suffering from early-onset dementia, while Sam (Firth) is also struggling with the loss of someone who is very much alive. “I’m not the same person as before,” says Tusker. “I just look like him.”
The sad, final chapter of a film that might have started with God’s Own Country and continued with Love Is Strange
It’s to Macqueen’s credit that even though this couple is heading towards a certain future, Supernova’s road trip doesn’t always follow an inevitable path. Tusker has set up surprises for his partner – not all of them welcome – in a picture which is so intimate, it’s almost a surprise to discover Supernova is not derived from a play. Public’s appetite for films of this nature – even one so finely acted – has its limitations, and Anthony Hopkins in Florian Zeller’s more structurally ambitious The Father travels the same road this year. Following a premiere in San Sebastian and futher play in London, this meticulous, if mournful, film will look for Bafta and Bifa love for its leads, which may well be forthcoming. The chemistry between Tucci and Firth is warm, believable, and, along with Dick Pope’s lensing, Supernova’s selling-point.
Set mostly in England’s Lake District, the mood in Supernova is elegiac from the outset (unlike, say, The Leisure Seeker, which aimed for some comedy and dramatic contrivances along a similar caravan journey). Its aspirations are small scale, like the living space in the Autorail camper van which is taking the couple first to a lake, where they spent a happy time 20 years ago, and on to Sam’s rambling family farm and his sister (Pippa Heywood) for a surprise party and reunion with old friends.
This high-achieving couple – Tusker as a writer, and Sam as a famous pianist – must now face the end of their careers, in different ways. There’s talk of Sam making a comeback performance in the Guildhall (Firth does play some Elgar), but that’s not very well developed (why did he stop? Why isn’t he practicing?). This is less important to Macqueen than Tusker’s devotion to the solar system and the starlight he believes forms an essential part of us all. Cello strings accompany Pope’s beautiful shots of the skies over England and the landscape beneath as the season changes to autumn and Sam faces up to a life without the man he has loved for so long.
Macqueen, an actor who made his debut with Hinterland in 2014, sticks with a tone of encompassing warmth throughout and the pace of Supernova is unhurried. The final chapter of a story that might have started with God’s Own Country and continued with Love Is Strange, Supernova a serious endeavour, and a solemn, sad-hearted one.
Production companies: Quiddity, The Bureau
International sales: The Bureau, firstname.lastname@example.org
Producers: Emily Morgan, Tristan Goligher
Screenplay: Harry Macqueen
Cinematography: Dick Pope
Editing: Chris Wyatt
Production design: Sarah Finlay
Music: Keaton Henson
Main cast: Stanley Tucci, Colin Firth, Pippa Heywood