Friday, February 12, 2021

film review: Supernova


Directed by Harry Macqueen

Written by Harry Macqueen

ChinoKino score: B+

Review by Allan Tong

The hard reality is that dementia is increasing as our population ages. Supernova addresses how one couple deals with this terrible disease. Specifically, dementia corrodes the memory of older people. They forget where they are, who they are and who they love. Even buttoning a shirt becomes confusing. It can take a few years or many to attack a person. In Supernova, Tusker (Stanley Tucci) was diagnosed a few years ago, so his dementia is in the early innings. Most of the time Tusker knows where he is and who can recognize his lover, Sam (Colin Firth). However, unexpectedly Tusker forgets everything, which can be dangerous. He can literally wander into harm.

In a trailer home, Tusker and Sam journey through England's gorgeous Lake District to relive happy times they spent there. They also visit Sam's childhood home where his sister now lives. She's a safe harbour in a stormy time. The couple want to enjoy this experience together while Tusker still can.

Supernova is a character study of a couple coming to grips with the gradual, inevitable demise of one of its partners. It's not a movie bristling with plot twists and turns. Rather, the script is nuanced, allowing the story to organically unfold. Tucci and Firth delivered assured performances, which wring the right emotional notes. The movie is never sentimental nor melodramatic. Instead, it is sincere and direct.

[spoiler alert] Tucci's best moments arise when he announces with clear-eyed candor that he accepts his fate, that he is in fact dying. He is stoic, fatalistic. What's more surprising is Sam's resistance to accept the inevitable. This conflict lies at the heart of Supernova, named after Tusker's love of astronomy.

Supernova handles dementia realistically but also empathically. It carries the ring of truth and will open the eyes of audiences who don't know about this disease and offer catharsis to those who do.

Supernova premieres in select Canadian theatres on Feb. 12, and appears on Apple TV and other VOD outlets on Feb.16. It is released by Mongrel Media.

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