Actors Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci at a dinner party during the film Supernova

Supernova's director Harry Macqueen on the film's touching depiction of dementia

Supernova is a heartfelt modern love story from writer and director Harry Macqueen. In this romantic drama, actors Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci portray a couple dealing with the young-onset diagnosis of Posterior Cortical Atrophy (PCA).

The story of Supernova

What is the film Supernova about? 

Supernova follows the story of Sam, played by Colin Firth, and Tusker, played by Stanley Tucci. They have been partners for twenty years, and are travelling across the country to visit people and places from their past.

The couple's lives have changed since Tusker's young-onset dementia diagnosis two years ago. But as the romantic drama continues, there are more challenges that Sam and Tusker face while on this journey.

Supernova is in cinemas now across the UK.

Is the film Supernova based on a true story? 

No, Supernova is a fictional film.

The writer and director, Harry Macqueen, explains that attributes of the characters were inspired by people affected by dementia he met through volunteering, as well as other areas of his life.

Actors Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci driving a campervan during the film Supernova

Supernova focuses on the cross-country journey by Sam and Tusker in a campervan.

Interview with writer and director Harry Macqueen 

Harry Macqueen is a British writer, director and actor, born in Leicester.

Hinterland (2014) was Harry Macqueen's first feature film as a writer and director. It was nominated 'Best British Debut' at Raindance Film Festival and 'Best Debut Film' at the Beijing International Film Festival.

My connection to dementia

Dementia - specifically young-onset - came into my life about six years ago when I was working with a lady who had it, unbeknownst to either of us. I watched her change quite a lot over a space of time, which was hugely moving.

Around the same time, a friend moved her father into a care home just after his 60th birthday.

I realised I didn’t know much about dementia so I decided to do some volunteering.

A life-changing experience

Ultimately, I ended up volunteering at the incredible Dementia Research Centre at UCL under the wing of the wonderful Dr. Sebastian Crutch and his team.

Through them, I got to spend time with many people who are living with this kind of diagnosis, which was a life-changing experience for me.

The film itself emerged from this quite organically. I was so inspired by what I was seeing that I felt a film about it might be an important thing to make. The job was then to try and create something that was its own original entity, inspired by those I had met. 

An honest representation of dementia

I was very conscious not to base the characters on anyone I had specifically met. My process was to immerse myself in the subject matter and then use that as a springboard to create a wholly new story with original, unique characters at the helm. But there are certainly attributes of them that seep into the writing from both the research process - and my own life, naturally. 

However, in a behavioural sense, I drew a lot from spending time with people who are going through this. Getting the representation of the specific type of dementia - in this case, Posterior Cortical Atrophy (PCA) - correct was absolutely vital and a huge undertaking. As was the infinitely complex process someone goes through when looking after a loved one post-diagnosis.

Actors Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci embracing during the film Supernova

Stanley Tucci's character, Tusker, is living with Posterior Cortical Atrophy (PCA).

Sharing the film with people affected by dementia

Many of the people I had the privilege of spending time with have now seen the film. I also liaised with the team at UCL and others during the process to make sure we were getting the presentation of it correct. 

The single most gratifying part of the whole process has been the knowledge that those people love the film and think it’s an accurate portrayal of their experiences.

In many ways, I made the film for them and I hope in turn it educates and informs as well as inspires. 

What audiences can learn from Supernova

I think dementia surprised me in so many ways when I was doing my research that I hope we portray something that surprises an audience too.

Tusker’s form of dementia is changing things for him in very specific ways and perhaps those are not the ways we might often associate with dementia.

I would also hope that the film gives the audience a window into what it is like to care for someone who is living with this.

The journey from lover to carer was, in the end, really the main thing that fascinated me during my research.

How does a diagnosis like this affect love or intimacy or companionship? Those are incredibly interesting questions. 

But mostly I hope an audience will learn that dementia pulls us close as well as pushes us apart. The love and devotion I witnessed was life-affirming and awe-inspiring.

Love is everything when you are living through this.

If you have a question about dementia or need some support, call our support line to speak with one of our expert advisers.

Dementia Connect support line
Our dementia advisers are here for you.

Watch the trailer for Supernova on YouTube and visit the ticketing page to book your tickets.

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My sister was diagnosed with PCA 7 years ago. I have walked this journey with since before diagnosis. We have traveled all over the world together so she could see all she could while she can. I can’t wait to see this movie. With such a rare form of Alzheimer’s being depicted in a movie will certainly bring so much awareness.

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