Supernova review: Tucci and Firth will break your heart in this meditation on dementia

Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci in Supernova. (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)
Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci in Supernova. (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)

Rating: R21

Length: 95 minutes

Cast: Colin Firth, Stanley Tucci, Pippa Haywood

Director: Harry Macqueen

Release date: 18 February 2021 (Singapore)

4.5 stars out of 5

Romantic drama Supernova stars Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci as an elderly gay couple dealing with the fact that one of them is slowly losing his mental faculties because of dementia.

Sam (played by Firth), a pianist, and Tusker (played by Tucci), a novelist, take a road trip across England to the Lake District on the pretext of Sam having a performance in a rural location. Sam, however, has gathered family and friends at a pitstop to reconnect with them as Tusker's condition deteriorates.

Supernova manages to put two gay characters front and centre without talking about the fact that they're gay. Their friends and family simply accept them as they are. (Firth and Tucci are both 60 years old, so their characters' self-identities have long settled.)

The fact that they're a gay couple is secondary to the impact of the disease on their relationship. It’s just two people who love each other dealing with the fact that one of them has dementia. This portrayal is an admirable decision by writer-director Harry Macqueen. It humanises the characters without having to reference the trauma that is specific to queer people. It's stellar queer representation – albeit with gay characters played by straight actors, even if they are A-list actors.

Both Tucci and Firth have played gay roles before: Tucci in The Devil Wears Prada (2006) and Burlesque (2010), Firth in 2009's critically acclaimed A Single Man (for which he received an Academy Award nomination).

In Supernova, the two actors convey the warmth of a loving relationship, as well as the conflict that arises from Tusker's worsening dementia. Tusker worries that he is losing his sense of self and tries to prepare Sam for that inevitable loss, while Sam insists on staying by Tusker's side, come what may. Tucci and Firth are friends in real life, and their portrayal of a gay couple is beautifully convincing, which makes it all the more heartbreaking.

Tusker's dementia, still in its early stages, is depicted with a light touch. The film never descends into melodrama as Sam and Tusker grapple with the unspeakable tragedy that awaits them; its firm focus is on the ramifications on the psyche of the characters. Ultimately the movie is an affirmation of the power of love in the face of loss.