Review

'It's Not Yet Dark' is a powerful vision of a filmmaker's battle with ALS

“It’s Not Yet Dark” is a lovely and poignant documentary tracing the life of award-winning Irish filmmaker Simon Fitzmaurice and the profoundly challenging turn it took in 2008 when, at age 34, he was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease (MND), the neurodegenerative disorder more commonly known stateside as ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Using a wealth of home videos, interviews with Fitzmaurice’s wife, Ruth, and family, and narration by Colin Farrell largely culled from Fitzmaurice’s 2014 memoir, director Frankie Fenton paints a powerful, inspiring portrait of one man’s emotional and creative fortitude against the devastating disease (which just recently claimed the life of Sam Shepard).

The film covers Fitzmaurice’s buoyant youth, his courtship of and marriage to Ruth, with whom he has five children, and his work as writer-director of such short films as 2003’s “Full Circle” and the 2008 Sundance Film Festival entry “The Sound of People,” as well as the 2015 crowdfunded feature “My Name Is Emily.”

How Fitzmaurice, by then completely paralyzed, managed the gargantuan task of scripting and helming “Emily” using only eye movement and iris recognition software is stunning to behold.

Although “Dark” eschews overly graphic depiction of the more horrific physiological aspects of MND and barely touches upon the financial toll the illness clearly takes, this is as real a human story as it gets.

“It’s Not Yet Dark”

Rating: Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica. Also on VOD.

An earlier version of this post incorrectly said the name of the film is "It's Not Dark Yet."
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