I don’t know what other people’s experience is with horror films but I would imagine that I am not alone in having been in a cinema, knowing I will definitely stay but desperately wanting the film to end. It doesn’t happen often and it hasn’t happened with the films you might think* but occasionally a scary movie connects with you to such an extent that you are scared not only of what you are seeing but what you might yet see before it all wraps up. I went through exactly the same thing with Supernova but oddly this isn’t a horror film, it is a love story.
You would never think you are going to be in this situation as this film starts. This movie is initially one of the gentlest stories you could ever see, in fact it is barely a story at all as middle aged couple Tusker and Sam, played by Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth, bimble around the Lake District in an old camper van amiably bantering and taking in the beautiful countryside. The affection they have for one another is tangible and even as it becomes clear that one of them has early onset dementia, it is actually very sweet. Little did I suspect that these scenes, establishing their relationship, were just the wind up to the punch that would come later.
Here’s the thing though, just at the point at which the future these two men were facing became clear and my worry that watching it play out would be too hard, just as I was willing the film to end, it did end. The reason we spend most of our time in this movie following these two on a journey is because it is all about the journey. This is just one way in which writer/director Harry Mcqueen shows mastery of his material. He knows exactly what to share with his audience and the delicacy of the storytelling is reflected in the script, the editing and the performances.
Tucci and Firth are both superb. Their partnership is wonderfully engaging from the outset and they totally convince as a couple. Then when the narrative slowly takes them to some difficult places they really come into their own. The film was overlooked in the award season but these two if no one else should have got some recognition. Of course the main male acting Oscar this year went to Anthony Hopkins for a similarly themed film but where this differs from The Father is in its focus on the central dichotomy. That film was all about the experience of the dementia sufferer with the concentration on family members coming second. In this movie Tucci’s Tusker actually shows very little sign of having the illness and I am not sure if this adds or steals from the tragedy but the ‘what would you do in this situation?’ questions all centre around Firth’s Sam whose circumstances are presented with no compromise whatsoever. There are things left unanswered about the decisions he makes and why but this just reflected the internal nature of his thoughts. There are things this man would have thought that he will never speak of to anyone ever so I am glad they weren’t shared with us either.
I’m reluctant to bring this up as it makes a deal of it when the film doesn’t but it should be recognised that the sexuality of the central duo here is totally irrelevant. Most gay protagonists in cinema still feature in stories where this is part of the plot but here it isn’t even mentioned which is real progression.
Supernova is a quiet film then, with immense power and knowledge of how to use it. Be aware that it might be a trigger for people who have lived some of this themselves but I commend it for what it does and the skill with how it does it.
*It didn’t happen with either of the It films or Hereditary but I was in this situation with Under the Shadow, Host and The Grudge.