To love is to be able to let go. The premise, so often employed by all manners of artistic expression, is at the beating heart of Harry Macqueen’s sophomore feature, Supernova. Centered around Sam (Colin Firth) and Tusker (Stanley Tucci), an aging couple facing the latter’s dementia diagnosis, Supernova lovingly ponders on the preciousness of memory and time as the couple travels across the country in an old RV.
In between doting bickering over road navigation, the two men dwell on the many memories created in the old, beaten Ford campervan. The trip, way overdue, symbolises an escape from the dire reality of Tusker’s fast-evolving condition. Setting camp under the pristine countryside skies, they hold each other’s hands, basking in the absence of a routine that only reminds them of why they want to eagerly remain oblivious.
What it means to live
To question the validity of maintaining a beating heart that no longer matches a decaying brain is to dive headfirst into philosophical and existentialist wanders that can never be fully resolved. What makes life worth living? And what is living after all? To some, living means merely surviving. To others, it consists of the calming, steady presence of “maybe one day” and “there’s still time”; it lies in the ability to maintain a carefully crafted routine while flirting with the thrill of a guaranteed tomorrow.
To Tusker, living is doomed senseless if it means total and complete dependence. A prolific writer with a bustling personality, the man could not grasp what it meant to walk into a room he once owned just to find it sterile – worse yet – being so consumed by numbness he wouldn’t even battle with the sting from the lack of recognition. The cruelty of the notion ignites a burst of urgency that triggers an epiphany.
Confined to watching Tusker’s decline from a tortuous front row seat, Sam struggles to juggle his personal beliefs and the visceral need he has for Tusker’s presence. What lies ahead is the choice between the tangibility of a body that no longer holds the man he loves and the excruciating pain of loneliness made marginally easier by the comfort that emanates from untainted memories.
A perfectly cast duo
Tucci is tender yet heart-rending on his portrait of a man firmly holding onto a fleeting sense of control. The actor, who effortlessly balances joy and grief, beautifully communicates the lingering sadness that rests behind Tusker’s every witty remark and giddy banter. Firth fittingly counterbalances Tucci’s merriment with measured sobriety. Sam’s countenance is never emptied of worry, never free from the harshness of reality. Here stands a man who stares closer and closer into an unavoidable abyss, clenching tightly onto final moments of a normal that’ll never be again.
A sublime ode to loving, Supernova pays a tender homage to the beauty that quietly lies in the simplicity of a shared routine. Macqueen aptly conveys how devastatingly inhumane it is to grief a living, breathing being. Out of many impossible questions, one feels particularly hard: how can one dodge the intrinsically human tendency to dwell on the pain and simply cease an instant that is guaranteed to never come back?
What are some of your favourite films about grief? Tell us in the comments.
Supernova will be released in the UK on November 20, 2020.
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