Sam and Tusker have been happily married for years, and clearly still absolutely adore one another. But Tusker has dementia and is deteriorating rapidly in ways that he's trying to hide from Sam: a novelist, he can no longer write. Meanwhile Sam has his secrets too. He has steeled himself to the idea of caring for Tusker whatever may come, but he's absolutely scared of it.
And so this couple set off in a camper van for a holiday in the Lake District to visit family en route to a concert that Sam is giving. We see them bicker and snuggle as couples do. We also see them edge towards the truth in the confined space of the camper van. Finally, we enter a beautiful and isolated house where they have to tackle the most profound questions of love and life: what does one partner do when another faces death.
I don't want to say more for fear of spoiling the carefully constructed emotional arc of this film. Suffice it to say that Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci as Sam and Tusker absolutely convince as a loving couple and it is heart-breaking to see them come to terms with what is happening. And all of this is set in the most beautiful of autumnal melancholy landscapes, captured by DP Dick Pope, and in a production design suffused with rich warm oranges, browns and teal.
This is a deeply affecting film of quiet power. It is likely to prove provocative for anyone in a loving relationship, or grappling with loved ones dealing with dementia. In my group of cineastes we are still debating the motives and meanings of the ending, and in the process examining our own attitudes to the issues raised. That is the sign of an intelligent film that we have taken to our hearts. Kudos to all involved, but particularly sophomore director Harry MacQueen.
SUPERNOVA has a running time of 93 minutes. It played San Sebastian and London 2020. It will be released in the UK on November 20th.