It’s Not Yet Dark – Film Review by Pat Viale
Director: Frankie Fenton
Star: Colin Farrell
Frankie Fenton’s directorial début is a moving documentary about fellow Irish film-maker, Simon Fitzmaurice, who has lived with a neurodegenerative disease A.L.S (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a form of motor neurone, since 2008. Now almost completely paralysed, Fitzmaurice continues his work as a director, communicating only with his eyes and cutting-edge eye gaze technology. The film shows us his day-to-day struggle to overcome his condition and the immense courage it took to organise and shoot his first feature film, My Name is Emily, which was released to great critical acclaim in 2015.
Narrated by Colin Farrell who draws largely on Fitzmaurice’s memoirs to find his voice, the film shows us photos and home videos of his early years, of home life with his wife, Ruth, which whom he has had five children and the start of his promising career. Fitzmaurice’s energy and enthusiasm is immediately obvious, and the strength of character that has helped him in his daily battle with this devastating disease. His relationship with Ruth has always been the cornerstone of his life and it is easy to see why. As impressive and courageous as he is, Ruth is competent and compassionate, able to give support when needed but also to allow Fitzmaurice the freedom to pursue his dream even when that seemed impossible.
What could be a depressing and sombre film in other hands is leavened by the positivity and humour of Fitzmaurice and the subtle direction of Frankie Fenton. Though it is impossible not to be moved by the plight of a young man of 34, with a young family and on the brink of a successful career, who is told that he has just a few years left to live, we cannot but be inspired by his positive reaction and his determination to make every moment count. After the initial shock and struggle to accept the diagnosis, he determines to lives as full a life as he can for his family and pursue the career that he has always loved. With the use of a revolutionary computer programme, he set about writing a novel as a farewell to his children and working on the screenplay for the feature film he had always hoped to make.
The film had its world première at Sundance earlier this year where it was nominated for the World Cinema Documentary Award and was shown at the Galway Film Fleadh, where it won the award for Best Irish Feature Documentary. In an early interview, talking of his own work, Fitzmaurice tells us that he tries to capture the true emotional essence of his characters and avoid all sentimentality in his work. Fenton has followed in his footsteps presenting here an authentic and engaging portrait of a truly inspirational human being.