From the pages of his personal memoir about living with Motor Neurone Disease, comes a heart-wrenching, and delicate piece about Irish filmmaker Simon Fitzmaurice. Director Frankie Fenton delivers this illuminating documentary from the darkness of MND, detailing the life of one extraordinary man in his attempt to defy his medical diagnosis by living life to the full for himself and his family.
After being diagnosed with MND (ALS) in 2008, Simon Fitzmaurice was given the frightful news that he had only four years left to live. Unwilling to simply wait for death, he began his battle to not only survive this disease, but to also ensure that he was going to take every day in his stride and revel in being alive. With his life thus far having been dedicated to writing and filming, it was evident that his devoted passion to the arts was not going to stop because of his illness, and this journey of determination is documented beautifully through home footage and anecdotes from his family, helping to paint the picture of the man Simon was before his diagnosis.
Opening with a shot of the Irish landscape, and narrated with the dulcet tones of Colin Farrell, the film manages to give an uplifting feel to the otherwise harrowing subject. This is not to say that there aren’t dark moments, and these touch upon some very harsh realities that many of us in good health would take for granted, each scene delivered with sensitivity and clarity, Many are filmed from a first-person perspective – notably during tense scenes, such as his diagnosis, being on life support and moving around in his wheelchair – and are usually blurry, mimicking his mind as it becomes clouded, a constant reminder of his mortality. The cinematography of the landscape shots, combined with Simon’s personal philosophies, shapes the piece elegantly, and with quotes such as, “light leaves the room, and air and sound and time,” he makes the audience aware of all of their senses. His views draw on the essence of humanity, and life itself, which is highlighted through his passion to finish his feature-length film, “This is Emily”, despite only having his sight left.
Simon’s wife, Ruth, as the focus of the documentary for a good twenty minutes, is equally captivating, and the beacon of light that she offers him is evident when the audience is permitted an insight into their personal lives. He is clearly in love with being a father of 5 young children, and his interaction with them during his decline is equal parts precious and devastating. From a life devoted to his love of film, to battling with a chronic disease and still being able to go back to his family and career, this is a film that is incredibly moving, and one that leaves the viewer full of hope, prosperity, and just a dash of humbleness.
IT’S NOT YET DARK screens at Cambridge Film Festival at 15:15 on Sunday 22nd October at the Arts Picturehouse, and at 12:00 on Monday the 23rd at Downing College. Click here to buy tickets.