In the U.S., approximately 5600 people are diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease (MND), commonly referred to as ALS, although there are also other types. While the number doesn’t seem high, the number of family members it affects is tremendous. And if you are one of those 5600, then 1 is too many. This degenerative and debilitating disease, affecting both the upper and lower body neurons in the brain, eventually leaves the individual wheelchair bound, on a respirator, and unable to eat or talk on his or her own. Obviously, the effects, even for one individual, are devastating. However, filmmaker Simon Fitzmaurice finds a way to perhaps more than cope with this disease…he embraces what he has every day and inspires everyone in his life to cherish the life we are given. Filmmaker Frankie Fenton captures and tells Fitzmaurice’s emotional and remarkable journey in the uplifting documentary “It’s Not Yet Dark.”
The film immediately imparts a feeling of friendship as we get to know Fitzmaurice through old film footage, home videos, and photos with narration by Colin Farrell. Fitzmaurice’s parents, wife, and close friends give us an open and honest description of him from childhood to his wedding day to the birth of his children. The images are beautifully painted of this creative and determined young man who is a son, father, husband and filmmaker. His journey then takes a marked left turn while attending the 2008 Sundance Film Festival to screen his short film “Full Circle.” It is at this time that Fitzmaurice notices a difference in the functioning of one of his feet and would soon learn that he has MND.
While Fitzmaurice has penned the book “It’s Not Yet Dark,” it is the collaborative effort of all those involved that make the story come to life on the big screen. Farrell’s poetic and lilting narration becomes Fitzmaurice’s own voice and transports you to his world. We feel as if we are wearing his shoes, taking on his journey, allowing us to be a part of the incredible trek through his life. While MND would be a death sentence to most, Fitzmaurice’s determination and ingenuity continue to give him a meaningful and loving life. We see this in his work and the passionate yet reserved interviews with Ruth, his wife. Hearing her talk about living in the moment speaks not just to Fitzmaurice’s situation, but to us all. Ultimately, the film brings us to witnessing Fitzmaurice’s goal: completion of the feature film “My Name is Emily.”
While this is a heartbreaking story, it is one that is also positive and uplifting, giving viewers hope and strength. Fitzmaurice’s insight, intelligence, and ability to communicate is simply profound and Fenton crafts this film to give us that depth.
“It’s Not Yet Dark” is an extraordinary documentary telling us a story of not just a man with ALS or MND, but of a groundbreaking and innovative visionary who uses his intellect fueled by the love of life and family to ford ahead.
For more information about this film, go to www.itsnotyetdark.com
“It’s Not Yet Dark” premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. I had the pleasure to meet many of the caring and creative individuals associated with the film. Listen to the entire interview HERE