Put aside, if you can, your reticence to view yet another family-member/lover-dying-of-a-fatal-disease film in order to watch some of the best acting this year. Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci are simply wonderful together. Evidently long time friends, they share the screen with nuance and respect, immediately evoking an indelible sense of history, making unspoken communication palpable. These are understated actors with superb timing – perhaps never more so than here. Both artists are straight, yet physicality is natural and potent.
Sam (Colin Firth), a concert pianist, and Tusker (Stanley Tucci), a writer, have been together for two decades. To say they know each other well is minimizing a connection we recognize as soulmates. It won’t be long, however, before Tusker doesn’t recognize his partner as dementia is making a quick march across his mind. To watch the character subtly recede and emerge as he battles for lucidity and grasps at dignity is something of a marvel. Nor will Sam, in as much outer denial as he can muster, soon know the man he’s determined to nurse even as a recalcitrant baby.
The film takes place during a camper trip through Britain’s lake country (beautiful cinematography) as the couple visit dear friends and family on their way to a rented cabin, followed by the first concert Sam has given in some time – a promise to his partner. They argue about little things, all suddenly tinged with more drama because of circumstances, but none outsized. This film lacks histrionics portrayed in other Alzheimer-centric features. When the writer is honored at a dinner, he finds himself unable to read his speech. Sam takes the podium to unwittingly share, in part, a moving testimony to himself. It’s testimony to the power of a gaze.
Sam deferentially takes Tusker’s lead in the way he deflects an aura of tragedy and minimizes outward signs. Still, the pianist pushes after-concert plans even as his lover insists this trip is their last.
The somewhat misleading title refers to Tusker’s interest in astronomy.
A remarkable film.
The only other deft, predominantly two-hander I can think of in this ilk is 2014’s Love is Strange directed by Ira Sachs with John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a devoted gay couple undergoing trials. Supernova takes it further.
Top photo: Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci
All photos courtesy of Bleecker Street Films
Written and Directed by Harry MacQueen
Also with Pipa Haywood as Sam’s sister, James Dreyfus and Sarah Woodward
Stream on Amazon Prime