Over the course of the pandemic, we learned that many things were no longer a necessity. This included going to the cinema. With major films released straight to streaming platforms or pay-for-view services, the idea of sitting with strangers in a crowded, dark room became an oddity. And as things have started to open up again, some have questioned if we need to return to the movies at all, with at-home film-watching offering affordable snacks and the ability to pause a scene if you need the loo.
But while many aren’t fussed about heading back to the cinema, plenty of us can't wait, with film buffs championing the power of a group viewing experience. Your first thought might be those scenes of Marvel fans collectively losing their minds at Avengers: Endgame but sometimes the most moving group watches are the ones that rip your heart right out. This is certainly the case for Harry Macqueen’s new film, Supernova, which centres internet dads Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci as a middle-aged couple in love.
For decades, Tusker (Tucci) has lived a happy life as a well-respected novelist alongside his pianist partner, Sam (Firth). When Tusker is diagnosed with early-onset dementia, the pair decide to take a trip in a camper van through the English countryside for some much-needed distraction. Cue Tusker’s self-deprecating humour, poking fun at his illness as they set out on their mammoth journey. But there are flashes of his fading memory as he struggles to find his glasses or figure out the buttons on his shirt.
As the two head off cross-country, things quickly sour. Sam is in a state of denial and panic about the road ahead and the lack of transparency between the pair about how they really feel about the diagnosis only seems to be growing. This is perhaps shown best when they arrive at Sam's old family home. Showing both partners speaking to Sam's sister – rather than each other – about their feelings, you get the sense that the topic has become a bitter pill to swallow for both of them.
Though Supernova is small in scale, its presence on the big screen is encompassing, wrapping you up in the intimacy of the relationship. Charting the couple’s trip through the rolling hills of England, the film’s crisp cinematography only emphasises this feeling, showing the beauty of what life has to offer in its quiet moments. But it's the classical score that drives the film to its climax, proving that a well-orchestrated soundtrack (and a piano piece from Colin Firth) can be just as affecting as a well-worded script.
Thanks to subtle performances by two veteran actors, the film doesn’t go for the big, pull-on-the-heartstrings moments that you might expect. Instead, it chooses to catch audiences off-guard with smaller, more reserved pockets of sadness, extended handholds and fleeting glances. It’s these moments which remind us why watching things as a group is so moving: let the sounds of other people’s sniffles allow you to let go of everything the past year has forced you to keep inside.
During a period of time where many people have had to handle their emotions on their own, sitting in a room full of hot tears and watching a film about the importance of loved ones and what it means to grieve makes for an unexpectedly healing experience and is perhaps a true testament to what cinema is all about.
Just make sure that if you head to see Supernova this weekend, you remember to take plenty of tissues (and a mask).
Supernova opens in UK cinemas on Friday 25th June.