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Supernova review: ‘A success for gay cinema’

The film about a middle-aged gay couple dealing with early on-set dementia is released in UK cinemas on Friday 25 June 2021

By Alastair James

Words: Alastair James; pictures: Studiocanal

At first, I wasn’t sure if my love for both Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada) and Colin Firth (The Kings Speech) made me buy into their characters’ relationship in Supernova, or if it was genuinely there. I concluded it was the latter with a good helping of the former.

Both actors are superb in this gentle relationship drama. Tucci emits a kindness and warmth that’s come to be expected of him, and Firth is British through and through; reserved and stoic.

They play a couple convincingly, complete with (probably familiar to many) quarrels over trusting the sat nav. Their love and respect for one another feels entirely genuine, which both actors have talked about existing off-camera too. (They’ve known each other for 20 years)

Sexuality is never an issue, and the film would work with any other couple instead. And while it would have been great to see gay actors playing gay roles, the film is a love story that just so happens to be about two men. 

Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci in Supernova 

It’s more about the emotions and the experience they share, which is not exclusively gay and both actors portray that, and the relationship, sensitively. Potential casting choices aside, the film should be seen as a success for gay cinema for its complete normalisation of a gay relationship.

The film, written and directed by Harry Macqueen (Hinterland), tells the story of Sam (Firth) and Tusker (Tucci), a refreshingly middle-aged gay couple trying to cope with novelist Tusker’s early on-set dementia as they journey through the Lake District – stunning locales as always – on their way to Sam’s piano concert.

The trip feels like a last hurrah, much like an actual supernova, which is an explosion at the end of a star’s life. For the longest time, little is said in regard to Tusker’s condition, which we never really see deteriorate in the film. We only hear that he has begun to change and will continue to do so.

Stanley Tucci, director Harry Macqueen and Colin Firth on the set of Supernova 

For the first half of the movie the subject is skirted around and touched upon but never delved into. As a result, every comment and action along the trip has real weight. It’s only towards the end that we begin to see more and more of what’s going on underneath, leading to a breaking point (literally) where more is exposed than just their true feelings.

Ultimately, Supernova is a love story. Firth and Tucci sell that this has been a long and happy relationship, which only makes the characters’ struggle all the more heartbreaking. It’s a very human tale of love, fear, wanting to control what can’t be controlled and which makes us question; what is love and what would we do for the ones we love?

Rating: 4/5

Supernova hits UK cinemas from tomorrow (Friday 25 June). Check out the trailer below:

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