Supernova – An intimate and stunning portrait of love in the face of loss

5 mins read

Supernova is released in cinemas nationwide from June 25th

In 2015, Harry MacQueen’s directorial debut, Hinterland, wowed critics with an intimate and delicate portrayal of love. The naturalistic style of the film surrounded by the human need for emotional connection. And now he is back with Supernova, his second feature film in the director’s chair. A film that not only builds on the style of his debut but does so with a heartfelt and compelling level of intimacy and emotion. As the deep and enduring love of an older gay couple faces the crushing loss of early-onset dementia. With one navigating a future of care as his loved one vanishes. While at the same time, the other quietly plans for the future as dementia eats away at his very being.

With their ageing camper van packed, Tusker (Stanley Tucci) and his partner Sam (Colin Firth) embark on a holiday in the Lake District. The rolling hills, lakes and woodland a perfect getaway from their busy lives as an author and pianist. Both men bickering as they drive through the picturesque landscape, sharing memories of their previous trips. While at the same time, looking forward to visiting family and friends, their final stop a rare public piano recital from Sam.


But, as Sam pulls over at a service station for food and drinks, Tusker goes missing. With Sam desperately searching for his partner, only to find him standing vacantly on a nearby road, their dog at his side. The reality of their trip far more precious than it first seems, as Tusker slowly retreats from his hard-fought battle with early-onset dementia. The couple’s vacation a final opportunity to be together as equals before Tusker vanishes into a mere shadow of himself.

For Tusker, a man who has spent his life writing, the horror of dementia is becoming ever more visible. His notebook slowly becoming a journal of vacuous scribbles as the unavoidable terror of losing himself comes into view. While for Sam, his love and care for Tusker hide his sadness and mourning for a partner not yet lost. However, for both, the discussions of what comes next have been shielded by a need for strength as they attempt to protect one another. Their trip a final opportunity to face the heartbreaking choices and decisions they must both make.

The sheer emotional power of Supernova sits within Harry Macqueen’s mature and tender screenplay, the dialogue intuitive and free from embellishment. But when this is placed in the hands of Firth and Tucci, Supernova becomes a stunning slice of theatre. Both men, encapsulating the pain, love and care of a couple facing their greatest challenge, a challenge that can no longer be avoided, despite their undying love for one another.


The result, a poignant road trip that is both beautiful, delicate and sincere. The scenes between Firth and Tucci holding the audience in a vice-like grip of emotion. While at the same time, Macqueen’s delicate direction ensures both men remain the film’s sole focus, creating a truly intimate performance space, a bubble that the audience feels privileged to enter. The journey of both men wrapped in a joint search for answers as they tenderly embrace one another.

This mix of intimacy and world-class performance ultimately delivers a two-person play that shines with humanity. The audience swept away in a single moment in time, where life, love and loss collide. The bonds of love and care between both men transcending the decisions they must face together. And just as a supernova marks the final explosion of a dying star. The star born from Tusker and Sam’s love burns brightly across the sky, even as one half of its luminosity slowly fades. Just don’t forget the tissues, as this is one film that will melt even the hardest of hearts. Its sheer power held within its humanity.

Director: Harry Macqueen

Cast: Colin FirthStanley TucciLori Campbell, James Dreyfus, Ian Drysdale

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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