We’ve been watching – First Cut: Into That Good Night

by Lynn Connolly

Into That Good Night - First Cut

One assumes that the title of this exceptionally moving documentary – by Chris Eley – takes its title from the Dylan Thomas poem Into That Good Night, and in that poem, mention is made more than once about raging against dying.

The three extraordinary people featured in this film did indeed rage against their impending deaths, but only occasionally. The majority of the time in this all too brief film was given over to allowing not only that anger to be expressed but also acceptance, sadness and the unspeakably desperate plight that has befallen Henry, Mark and Ramatu.

They’re all terminally ill; their bodies have betrayed them and turned against them to destroy them. And although this outstanding documentary was just half-an-hour long, good things really do come in small packages, for filling it – though not rushing it – were conveyed sentiments so deep and raw, it was breathtaking in its simplicity.

Those featured all of course have extensive stories to tell. They all had full lives before their illnesses began to rob them of their existences, slowly and day by day, but for this film, rather than dwell on what had been and what might’ve been, they talked about the now.

Henry, Mark and Ramatu were filmed during an eight week long photography project in a hospice, and through their pictures, they managed to express in a very visceral way their feelings about their situations.

Henry has one of the cruelest of illnesses, motor neurone disease, and his body is slowly wasting away. Henry used to be a TV cameraman and has seen the world, but by way of the photography project, he managed to utilise his camera skills to preserve for posterity the life he is now forced to lead.

Ramatu is from Sierra Leone and was a fashion designer. Her immensely positive outlook has seen her through living with her cancer for seven years. She was and is determined to stay alive as long as possible for her daughters’ sakes, and I suspect she has a backbone made entirely of steel.

And Mark’s managed to parlay his tremendous sense of humour into a lifeline, to which he holds fast but, I suspect, also hides behind. That said, something has ensured he’s lived nearly five years past the deadline for his life’s end that he was given by doctors, so maybe as a shield, his ever present laugh is as much an attack against his illness as a defence.

I’ve always loved Dylan Thomas’s poem, and it could well have been written for those featured in this programme, but there, that’s perhaps the beauty of some poetry; it captures moments in the lives of many of us and we can relate to it, and perhaps draw comfort knowing that someone else truly understands.

If you missed this film, you can catch it on 4oD, and though it was undoubtedly sad, it was also inspirational.

For those of you who’ve never read Thomas’s poem, here it is…

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.