It’s Not Yet Dark

Review by SAMANTHA MOONEY

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Simon Fitzmaurice was 34 when his short film, The Sound of People, was selected for the 2007 Sundance film festival. It was immediately after the screening of his film that Simon,  just on the cusp of international recognition, first noticed a limp in his foot. This pain was the first of many signals that would make him book a doctor's appointment once he returned to Ireland. After months of tests he is diagnosed with motor neuron disease (MND). In 2008 he is told he has three to four years to live.

It’s Not Yet Dark is a feature length documentary, based on Simon's memoir of the same name and directed by Frankie Fenton.  As the film begins we see Simon sitting with his devoted and reverent wife Ruth by the beach. Simon can no longer move, he can't speak, he can't swallow, he can't breath. The only thing he has control over are his pupils. It's a powerful opening scene as Simon questions why anyone would choose to live a life with MND? Simon is unequivocal in his response “I can still feel. Everything. I love being alive.”

The film is movingly narrated by Colin Farrell, using the prose from Simon's memoir and dispersed with beautiful cinematography of the vast landscapes of Ireland. Simon's parents, sister, his wife and friend all give accounts of his journey with the diagnosis, which result in many moving moments throughout the film. Although poignant in parts, the film always returns to love, humour and the  unfaltering desire and determination that Simon has to create and to live.

When Simon received his diagnosis he picked up his camera. A true cinephile at heart Simon wanted to document all of his  “last moments” the last dance and walk or the last time he would speak. In each recording we witness Simon pass onto the next phase of his illness. His friend remarks that with “MND it happens slowly, then all at once,” which is how director Frankie Fenton and editor Dermot Diskin structure the film.

When Simon can no longer hold a camera, Fenton gathers his recorded footage and captures Simon's most recent moments for him, that being mainly his 2015 feature length film My Name is Emily. Simon wrote, drew up storyboards and directed this film using only his eyes. A powerful moment in It’s Not Yet Dark, is when Simon, using voice technology calls a wrap on the film.

The life of Simon Fitzmaurice is an inspirational one. The ending of the film returns to the opening scene “I want to live. Is that wrong? What gives a life meaning? What constitutes a meaningful life? What gives one life more value than another? Surely only the individual can hope to grasp the meaning of his or her life?” Fitzmaurice reiterates his opening point, he feels everything and he has the desire to live.

It’s Not Yet Dark, is a wistful experience, a bittersweet celebration of life and truly living in the moment. For anyone struggling with their creativity, or passion for life,  Simon Fitzmaurice's story is one you need to watch.