Earlier this year, the emotionally devastating The Father acutely showcased how progressing dementia can radically affect those afflicted by it. While this is without a doubt one of the strongest pictures of the year, an equally bright light should be shown on Supernova, the restrained powerhouse from sophomore director Harry Macqueen (Hinterland). While the former took an unsparing look at the disease, Supernova chooses a more restrained path that tackles how a couple lives under the impending specter of a disease that takes a loved one away before they are gone. Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth eschew their position as standout supporting players to mesmerizingly inhabit a couple who are trying to gain the most out of what little time they have left together. The pair know they are running out of runway and that this vacation they are taking through the English countryside will act as something of a farewell to the people they used to be. The destination is inevitable, but the journey is one filled with poignant moments you will not soon forget. 

Sixtysomething partners Sam (Firth) and Tusker (Tucci) are celebrating twenty years together in their old camper van which reminds them of memories from happy vacations of yore. Sam is a classical pianist who put his career on hold once he discovered Tusker’s deteriorating state of mind. Tusker is a celebrated novelist who once used his words to paint a canvas, but nowadays he struggles to write anything longer than a dinner speech. The movie shows you how in love they are rather than simply telling. The film opens with a playful bickering over the effectiveness of a paper map as their destination guide and whether or not Sam should have packed Tusker’s bag. The real-life friendship between Firth and Tucci lends a fair amount of emotional weight between the two which makes their connection appear with much more depth from the beginning. You get a glimpse of the couple they once were during a reluctant sing-a-long of Donovan’s “Catch The Wind” on the radio. Although on this journey, neither party is eager to reach the end due to everything that entails. 

The script from Macqueen never dwells on the specifics of the disease outside of the context of how it impacts the couple as a whole. There are smaller moments where Tusker forgets how to accomplish a simple task, but rarely does the story progress further from this outside of a lone time when Tusker wanders away from the camper when Sam is in a convenience store and becomes disoriented. Tucci has rarely been better than in the moments where he is somewhere between mentally together and gradually slipping away. Tusker is a proud man who does not want to become a burden to anyone, especially not his beloved Sam who he is trying to prepare for a life without him in it. While the partners of those who are afflicted with dementia rarely get equal weight in the performance department, Firth delivers his strongest work since The King’s Speech as a man who is not prepared to let the love of his life fade away. He is so gifted at juggling fear, insecurity and anger, all while trying to project an aura of happiness in this final grand memory. 

Supernova is not a film that aims to surprise you in any meaningful way; there is truly only one way the story between these two can conclude. The film is deliberately paced with a focus on character interactions rather than big moments. Just as the two project love on one another, the audience falls in love with these two together. There comes a time where Tusker argues the reasons he does not want to feel out of control of his future, and whichever character you end up siding with will come down more to your personal beliefs rather than any argument the film presents. In an ideal world, Tusker would go out much like the cosmic phenomenon the film shares its title with. To burn bright only to bow out with one fantastic bang – never fading away to a shell of the person he once was. The inevitable only lands with as much weight as it does because these two amazing performers have put all of their collective experiences into making these characters real. Like the characters on their adventure, you will not want this journey to end so soon. 

Video Quality

Supernova comes to Blu-Ray in an AVC encoded transfer in 1.85:1 courtesy of Wolfe Video featuring some luscious cinematography from Dick Pope. He captures some awe-inspiring landscapes that really pop in high definition. Not only do the textural details render cleanly, but the lush greenery leaps off the screen with an immense vibrancy that you can only get with the added resolution. This presentation is quite stunning and offers a stable image quality throughout. The almost travelogue nature of the film translates well aesthetically with most shots looking simply breathtaking. There is no evidence of compression artifacts or other digital nuisances of the sort. Skin tones look natural throughout the runtime. I do not see how this set could have been improved visually without a 4K UHD Blu-Ray disc. It’s a real stunner as is.

Audio Quality

The Blu-Ray disc comes with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that conjures a very specific mood that transports you to this moving story. This is a very subdued film, but the track does come alive with the environmental sounds. The wonderful score from Keaton Henson is showcased beautifully here with a gently enveloping use of the surround speakers. The dialogue comes through crystal clear without ever being overpowered by the environmental effects or the score. The sound design is just as precisely thought-out as the on screen visuals with all of the sounds positioned just right in the mix. The environmental effects create a really nice soundscape of brisk wind and rain, as well as noises from the gathering of people at the party. This is not an action-heavy film, so the activity in the low end is very sparse. This is a lovely sounding release that brings the movie to life in a really splendid way. 

Special Features

  • Featurette: A two-minute piece in which the creative team discusses the themes of the film, the power of the real-life friendship in the performances and more. This is enjoyable, but I wish it could have been a bit more in depth. 
  • Trailers: The two-minute trailer for Supernova is provided here which does an excellent job of selling the film. There is also a trailer provided for The World To Come.

 

Final Thoughts

Supernova is a beautifully devastating tale of lost love that transcends the standard depiction of dementia. Both Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci deliver some of the best performances of their careers while being backed by a script with a real emotional weight. Wolfe Video has thankfully provided a Blu-Ray for this film which sports a really strong A/V presentation and a couple of special features. This is a beautifully filmed tale which will linger with you long after the credits have finished rolling. Recommended 

Supernova is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray and DVD. 

Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.

Disclaimer: Wolfe Video has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.

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