In their sixties and still very much in love, long-time couple Sam (Colin Firth) and Tusker (Stanley Tucci) start up their trusty campervan for a restful holiday north through the English countryside. Both men are professionally successful: Tusker is a noted novelist and Sam a concert pianist. And the trip seems like nothing more than a chance for rest and relaxation.
The idyll goes well at first. The pair manage to find a beautiful campsite beside a lake that they previously visited in their youth. Tusker's an amateur astronomer and spends the night stargazing. But ever since the pair set out on their trip, there have been clues that something is not right.
That thing is dementia and it has cruelly afflicted Tusker at an early age. Not long into the journey, he wanders off, startling Sam. His newest novel sits unfinished - it can't be, he's lost the ability to put pen to page. And the disease is advancing unrelentingly, bringing torment to Tusker, to Sam and to their relationship.
Realising his rapid decline, Tusker has secretly planned other aspects of the itinerary. After stopping off at Sam's sister's house, there's a party, with friends and family appearing, all of which is news to Sam. In one of the most memorable scenes in the film, Sam reads a speech written by Tusker (Tusker can't anymore) thanking everyone and affirming Tusker's love for everyone in the room. The party continues but things get darker when other plans are revealed.
Directed and written by Harry Macqueen, Supernova is an intense and emotional work that examines the difficulties and cruelties that dementia inflicts on those who are relatively young. Much of the film is a two-hander and the script perfectly conveys the comfortability of two people who have spent their life together and the new circumstances they face as Tusker's disease touches more and more of their lives.
Firth and Tucci more than deliver. The two bicker like any other old couple but the situation they find themselves in has no clear roadmap, so they have to make it up as they go along. The pain and unfairness is always evident, even if no one explicitly states it. The end result must be close to career-best performances from both actors.
Supernova engagingly probes the question of what to do when a loved one is losing their mind. It's a question Sam and Tusker must confront despite Tusker's wish, which he states soon after setting out, that the holiday would never end.