Supernova review: Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci illuminate end-of-life drama

Supernova review: Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci illuminate end-of-life drama

Firth’s Sam and Tucci’s Tusker have been together for decades, and they are introduced to a cross-country journey in a turbulent old carriage. It’s what amounts to the last minute, as Tusker pushes his partner to perform a piano playing, and stops to see the family along the way.

They both are very aware that the hourglass is running out of life that they knew. Tusker’s condition gets progressively worse, with occasional moments when he wanders around or struggles to express his thoughts. He’s mostly fine now, but his inevitable decline – and the potential for “becoming a passenger” in his body, he says – looms like a shadow over them.

As for Sam, the journey is haunted by the fact that he will soon become a full-time temporary shepherd, a role he has taken on and which still intimidates him. “You’re not supposed to mourn someone while they’re still here,” notes Tusker, summarizing Sam’s uncomfortable ordeal.

“Supernova” isn’t a great title for a movie like this – it’s a sly play of the couple’s interest in stargazing – although oddly enough, given the two stars keep things watchable even when not much is happening, which is most of the time. In this respect, the movie joins a long list of end-of-life romances, in which case unfolding in what looks like slow motion.

Marking the second effort to direct writing from actor Harry McQueen, this British production is not disturbed by flashbacks or many recollections of the couple’s relationship. All of this history comes in the form of informal exchanges and small gestures that reflect age together, as poached by Firth and Tucci, whose real friendship certainly contributes to this shorthand. (The latter will be shown on CNN’s Food & Travel Show for the first time in February.)

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As much as it is less about the movie, the emotion of the situation comes loud and clear. While the speed may have benefited from a few turns or details, the audience has a very good understanding of where this road starts and where it leads.

A “supernova” is by any modest production scale, but it accomplishes what it plans to do: create an impressive, low-level display of its stars, allowing them to cast a bright light.

Supernova premieres on January 29 in select theaters and on February 16 upon request. It is rated R.

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