In Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, Mia Wallace squarely said that you know you found the one “when you can just shut the fuck up” and never feel the need to fill the silence with empty small talk. Harry Macqueen’s Supernova shows Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth derive both pleasure and unease in silence, but mostly the former. Tucci’s character Tusker is slowly deteriorating due to early onset dementia; he and Firth’s Sam have been together for two decades. On a long road trip around the lush countryside of England, the two unravel multilayered questions and answers about their relationship to keep all its hinges intact.
What do we gain from silence and petty bickering with our partner? Sam and Tusker come to terms (or at least try to) with getting and growing old with each other in a way that does not force nor drag the other to one’s chosen direction. The purpose of the road trip was not just to reunite with old friends and family: it was to remind themselves, especially Tusker, of the years that have come and gone, despite the inevitability of the years shared disintegrating in his system.
The beauty of the duo’s acting lies in their ability to make the audience feel like they’re not watching a movie. The empathy and communication through their body language elevates the goal of the story: to show how twenty years of partnership can either make or break a union without granting old age and memory loss even a slight nod of the head.
There is an incomprehensible fear and heartbreak when Tusker was supposed to read a speech at a dinner, but he stopped because of his worsening condition. It’s like wandering in a mall full of people and you just lost your companion: you know you were supposed to leave with this person but you can’t figure out how to find them. Then Sam takes over and reads one of the loveliest words ever spoken on camera; your companion has finally found you, asking you “where’ve you been?” And you take pride in that moment, and you wonder how you got so lucky to rest your head on the shoulder of this person.
We put so much regard in having and doing too much with our loved ones—compromises, petty exchanges, empty conversations to fill in the day—but Supernova teaches us otherwise: that in growing together we find less and less reasons to participate in the relationship yet still find reasons to fall in love with that person everyday. You can’t always be cloyingly sweet to them, or be flirty and intimate. You find it hard to talk everyday, yet they’re still the person you like to have playful banter with when you’re energized enough. To be quite present in the moment, Supernova teaches us that living under the bleakness of the pandemic can drain us both physically and emotionally, but that doesn’t mean that it will dismember your beliefs in the relationships you hold dearest.
While the script did seem overdone with word-vomit-esque writing, it thrived on the little moments between Tusker and Sam; their incomparable body language that made the film more human. The actions and the body language struck a chord, with the emotions placing value on the lost fragments stolen by the overbearing dialogue. It was the silent looks that lingered.
In Frances Ha (2012), we learn from Frances’ little spiel that in a party, you look for “your person” and you sense a strong feeling of knowing: knowing they’re there, knowing you’re safe even in a room full of people as long as you’re with them. That’s all there is to love, knowing in silence. All it really takes to get through the day is a squeeze of the hand, a tight little hug, a small look from across the room.
Tusker is bound to lose so much of his life and memory, yet we are comforted with the knowledge that someone will have his back. Love does not solely thrive in grand gestures; sometimes it’s just making things light for each other by sitting in silence, falling asleep, and taking steady breaths.