Opening 14 Oct 2021
Writing credits: Harry Macqueen
Principal actors: Colin Firth, Stanley Tucci, Pippa Haywood, Peter Macqueen, Nina Marlin
Harry Macqueen has written-directed a compelling drama about acceptance. At all levels. Regarding friends, family, and a couple’s 20-year long relationship being supremely tested. Can they come to terms with dementia? That stark reality neither really wants to confront. Yet must. Can they adapt, just as, can those in close proximity as well.
Since meeting, like opposite stars in a galaxy, Sam (Colin Firth), a thoughtfully quiet Englishman, artistic, and aesthetic pianist, and Tusker (Stanley Tucci), a gregariously personable American, charming, and stargazing author, their lives have shone brightly. They traveled far and wide, enjoyed a wide, wonderful circle of friends, plus a strong close-knit family relationship. Once again in their camper, this time on a sentimental journey touring years-long unseen roads, and visiting family, even the glorious autumnal foliage is unable to dispel their bickering, or the pervading undertone: life has changed dramatically, since Tusker’s early onset dementia diagnosis twenty-four months earlier. At Lilly (Pippa Haywood) and Clive’s (Peter Macqueen), Sam’s sister has substantially different heart-to-hearts with Tusker, and Sam, who then has an uncomfortable conversation with friend Tim (James Dreyfus) regarding the status of Tusker’s book-in-progress. Before their trip ends, a decision must be reached: for Sam, agonizing, and for Tusker, determined. But for the help of celestial guidance, acceptance of the unimaginable is possible.
MacQueen has crafted a quietly reflective, elegantly sparse film invigorated by preeminent actors’ moving performances, while paying attention to its backstory details, e.g., era specific music, and the overall aesthetics. When Stanley Tucci was cast as Sam, and then asked by Macqueen, he recommended good friend Colin Firth for the Tusker role; eventually, they determined it should be the other way around. After doing a read-though as cast for Macqueen, they did another with the roles switched. Immediately the director discerned the difference; ergo, the relaxed, easy tenderness, and genuineness between the characters throughout based on their long, real life friendship. “[W]hich is a big bonus.”
The script’s wistfulness adds power to its sensitively sensible dialogue, under-stated grief, and suppressed emotional impact. Rather than assaulting viewers, considering its focus, instead it generates compassionate empathy, and a desire to understand the unknown.
Filmed in England’s beautiful Lake District, Cumbria, the production values are exemplary: Dick Pope, cinematography; Chris Wyatt, editor; Keaton Henson, music; Shaheen Baig, casting; Sarah Finlay, production design. The entire cast self-assuredly communicates the dilemma of how to treat people affected by dementia, with the impetus from the leads’ superb performances. That exploration by two stars across a dismal space is the supernova of hope burning bright in all of us. Supernova is the essence of love, and loss, and acceptance. 95 minutes (Marinell Haegelin)