DRAMA; 1hr 33min
STARRING: Colin Firth, Stanley Tucci, Pippa Haywood
Star light: Tucci (left) with Firth
A supernova is dictionary-defined as “a star that suddenly increases greatly in volume due to a catastrophic explosion that ejects most of its mass.” Tusker (Tucci) is that blazing star. Acerbic, witty and bright, he’s been beloved for 20 years by his partner, classical pianist Sam (Firth). The two are on a road trip through the English countryside in their campervan when their story begins, bickering companionably in the cosy way of entrenched coupledom.
That all is not well becomes apparent on the first evening when Tusker goes AWOL with their dog, Ruby, and Sam races to find him. Tusker, an author, has early-onset dementia so this is literally the holiday of a lifetime for the two men. It’s at once a making of memories, a farewell to the familiar and a reckoning with the cruel transience of mortality.
Sam and Tusker visit Sam’s sister Lilly (Haywood) and her family. They’ve planned a surprise party of old friends at which Tusker is unable to read a thank-you speech. He and Sam move on, motoring through majestic Lake District landscapes to composer Keaton Henson’s melancholy orchestral score. Upon learning of the extent of Tusker’s infirmity and how he intends to deal with it, Sam is appalled, afraid and defiant. Tusker, unrepentant, becomes the voice of reason in an unreasonable reality. “I [do] not want to lose control of my life,” he says, and God knows he has a point.
Dementia has been something of a topic du jour in 2021 — first Anthony Hopkins broke hearts in The Father, now English writer-director Harry Macqueen (Hinterland ) and his two attuned actors play their shattering part, treading with masterly reserve on this most terrifying ground. Who do you become when your mind deserts you and who would wish for such a reduced existence? There are no categorical answers. The questions alone are far-reaching enough.