Supernova

****1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Supernova
"Everything plays out within 80 minutes but you'll feel the impact of the crash for much longer." | Photo: Glasgow Film Festival

Iwona (Agnieszka Skibicka) is leaving Michal (Marcin Zarzeczny). She's taking the kids with her. This isn't the first time she's left nor, we suspect, the first time he's followed after her, staggering up the road, crying out that he loves her, promising to give up the drink. But something feels different, final. She says that she's going to Slawek.

Unstable on his feet, Michal stumbles, slumps into a ditch. He doesn't see the car that hits her.

Have you ever driven past a car crash? Most of us probably have at some point. Seen the police officers standing around, often with a small crowd of people who look as if they want to help but are unable to achieve anything; unless they're just voyeurs. Seen tape around the site, signs hastily erected in the road, perhaps flashing lights. Glimpsed plastic sheeting over uncertain shapes which, an hour ago, were people. Then gone on your way, not thinking much about those shattered lives..? You won't do it so easily again after seeing this film.

Three men's lives are turned upside down by this incident. Michal, when he recovers consciousness and realises what has happened to his family. The young police officer (Marek Braun) who is the fist official presence on the scene after passers-by sound the alarm. And the driver of the car (Marcin Hycnar), who initially flees, concerned only with his own safety and reputation, but who knows, when he pauses to think, that he can't get out of the situation that way. Many others - drivers who stopped to try to help, local people from the village where Michal and Iwona lived - are distressed and angry, milling around. Even the teenagers who start out by trying to take pictures on their pones and hitting on a young policewoman ultimately have an important role to play, but it's between the central three that the core of the story plays out.

There are more than enough films out there in which a woman dies to precipitate a story about conflict between men, but Supernova gets a pass because despite her death, Iwona remains a vital force in everything. It's the recognition of her humanity that is central to each man's arc, and many voices speak for her, putting different points of view. To the audience she may be just a character, someone who was never alive, but it's hard not to share the bystanders' anger at her fate, to will her to be part of the world. This is something few filmmakers achieve. It's hard to pin this film's success on any one thing; Bartosz Kruhlik's script and direction are crisp and sharp but the performances are also brilliant and everything comes together perfectly.

The sun is bright. The village is just down the road, looking peaceful and indolent as it did an hour before. Everything plays out within 80 minutes but you'll feel the impact of the crash for much longer. Whilst part of the story hinges on coincidence, nothing here is especially unlikely, and it's the very ordinariness of events that ultimately gives the film its power - this, together with a sense of immediacy that will have you on the edge of your seat throughout. There are no pauses for breath. There's no way back.

There were 27,820 people killed or seriously injured in car crashes in the UK alone in 2019. Kruhlik's film reminds us that death can come out of nowhere, but few film characters ever feel this alive.

Reviewed on: 27 Feb 2020
Share this with others on...
Supernova packshot
Three men, one place, and one event that will change each of their lives.


Search database: