It's Not Yet Dark

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
It's Not Yet Dark Movie Poster Image
Docu about man whose love of life crushes dire prognosis.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 80 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Entire film proclaims: "Choose life." Proves that humans have a capacity to overcome devastating adversity. Inspires positivity along with an ability to face truth and aspire to transcend that truth. Provides concrete evidence of the invaluable nature of support and devotion of loved ones. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Heroic subject is resilient, courageous, determined; is a gifted artist; and values love and loving life above all else. Without exception, interviewees (family members, co-workers, friends) are devoted, protective, and tenacious, and find beauty despite tragic circumstances.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that It's Not Yet Dark is an inspiring documentary about Simon Fitzmaurice, a gifted young Irish filmmaker, loving husband, and father whose life was ravaged by a diagnosis of motor neurone disease (MND) in 2007, at age 34. MND is the species of neurological disorder that includes ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). Based on Fitzmaurice's book of the same title, portions of which are read by Colin Farrell, the movie tells the real-life tale of a young man, in love and at the outset of an audacious career, interrupted by what he's told is an incurable, imminently terminal disease. Fitzmaurice and his wife, Ruth, make a crucial decision. He will fight to survive; she'll be his ally and support. In the Fitzmaurices' case, "survive" means to live well in spite of his illness. There are some possibly disturbing scenes (e.g., attaching Simon's breathing apparatus), but for every moment of heartbreak, there's a moment of admiration, revelation, and wonder. This movie delivers powerful messages about the human spirit and one man's will to overcome what are insurmountable challenges. It's highly recommended for families with teens and mature tweens.

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What's the story?

As IT'S NOT YET DARK opens, Simon Fitzmaurice has an idyllic life. Charismatic and precocious as a child, artistic and talented as a young adult, Simon is madly in love with his wife, Ruth, and his very young children. On the brink of a successful filmmaking career, the Irishman goes to the Sundance Film Festival to see his first short film delight an audience. It's there in Sundance that Simon is first aware that the nagging pain in his foot may be something worse. Very soon afterward, a diagnosis of MND -- motor neurone disease -- is delivered. Not only will Simon lose his capacity to move, speak, and even breathe, but he's given a short time to live. The Fitzmaurices use film, photographs, and Simon's own words to chronicle the calamitous progression of MND and, most important, the family's decision to fight the disease at all costs. Simon, driven by love and an overpowering desire to carry on for himself and his family, takes on each new challenge with optimism and courage.

Is it any good?

Graced with a vibrant, extraordinary man at its core, wonderful family photos/videos, and testimony from folks willing to share their heartfelt feelings, this film is inspiring. Director Frankie Fenton had a treasure trove of material from the Fitzmaurice family "archives" with which to work. He made the most of everything. The film is structured, produced, and edited to perfection; even movie-goers wary of being depressed or finding serious illness difficult to watch may be surprised at the powerfully good feelings they'll come away with. Colin Farrell, reading Simon Fitzmaurice's own words from his book, brings additional dignity, warmth, and humanity to the film.

When It's Not Yet Dark was released, more than 10 years after the devastating diagnosis and equally devastating prognosis, Simon Fitzmaurice was alive, prospering, and enriching the lives of those around him. Fortunately, a wide audience can share in the extraordinary circumstances of the young man's life through the bounty of documentary filmmaking.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the value of documentary filmmaking bringing a story like Simon Fitzmaurice's to a wide audience. What was your reaction to It's Not Yet Dark?

  • How does a movie like this one help balance the distressing real-life news and issues that are present in our culture? What other positive "escapes" can we find from the day-to-day negativity in our midst?  

  • Simon and Ruth made a crucial decision to "stay in the moment" as Simon's condition worsened. What does "staying in the moment" mean to them? To you?

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