Emotional drama Supernova features stellar performances from Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth

Supernova: Stanley Tucci as Tusker and Colin Firth as Sam
Supernova: Stanley Tucci as Tusker and Colin Firth as Sam

SUPERNOVA (15, 93 mins) Romance/Drama. Colin Firth, Stanley Tucci, Pippa Haywood, Peter MacQueen, Nina Marlin, James Dreyfus. Director: Harry Macqueen.

Released: June 25

TAKING its title from the blindingly bright explosion of a dying star, writer-director Harry Macqueen's heart-breaking drama about living with dementia is unfortunately timed to twinkle shortly after The Father deservedly cast a spell at this year's Oscars.

Supernova exists in the same narrative universe, juxtaposing the fear and confusion of a patient with the anguish of caring family members, but this gently paced road movie takes a more conventional approach to storytelling.

"I want to be remembered for who I was and not who I'm about to become," pleads Stanley Tucci's afflicted writer to his life partner, played with frayed nerves and a shattered heart by Colin Firth.

Their on-screen familiarity is delightfully believable from the opening shot of the couple entwined in bed, whether it be playful teasing about the shipping forecast on BBC Radio 4 or a more serious conversation about forgotten medicines.

"They remind me that I'm ill and I don't want that, not right now," contends Tucci's wordsmith, who claims to be writing a final book while he still feels some semblance of control over his creativity.

The natural flow and ease of these early scenes contrasts with a fraught, tear-wringing final act overstuffed with dialogue which hits premeditated beats at the expense of sounding like a true cascade of emotions.

Out-of-practice concert pianist Sam (Firth) and his partner, American novelist Tusker (Tucci), have savoured every second together on this side of the Atlantic. When Tusker is diagnosed with early onset dementia, the couple jump into a motorhome with their dog Ruby and embark on a ramshackle road trip to visit family, friends and important places from their relationship.

They initially squabble over the use of a satnav with a female voice that sounds discouragingly similar to Margaret Thatcher.

"First it's Section 28, now she's going to tell us where to go on our holiday?" quips Tusker.

After a worrying moment when Tusker walks off in a daze, the two men arrive safely at the home of Sam's sister Lilly (Pippa Haywood), her husband Clive (Peter MacQueen) and their daughter Charlotte (Nina Marlin).

A surprise party seemingly lifts Tusker's spirits but a candid conversation with Lilly exposes his deep-rooted fears.

"You're still the guy (Sam) fell in love with," she soothingly contends.

"No, I'm not," laments Tusker, "I just look like him."

Supernova burns bright thanks to Firth and Tucci's heartfelt performances, which lace their characters' love story with palpable sorrow. One uninterrupted close-up of Firth disgorging feelings as tears sporadically course down his cheeks is particularly memorable.

Cinematographer Dick Pope works tirelessly to capture the beauty of the central relationship and Lake Distinct scenery in dwindling light to give a sense of the darkness closing in.

Rating: 3stars