Last Flight Home

last flight home
Last Flight Home
Home » Blogs » Last Flight Home

Last Flight Home begins at the end, and then returns to the start. The initial sounds are those of a father and his daughter talking: patient listening from an adult-child, frail yet determined voice of a man who has approached his end. “Are we going to stop it today?” he asks pleadingly. The directness with which he speaks is striking. This is Eli Timoner and in our very first encounter with him, his weakness and bedridden nature are noticeable, as he experienced a dramatic decline in quality of life due to various health challenges including congenital heart failure.

Filmmaker Ondi Timoner (director of acclaimed music documentary Dig!) presents us her father at rock bottom before contrasting this with how dynamic and successful he used to be earlier in life: At one time, Eli was an articulate entrepreneur who had low-cost airlines amongst other pioneering achievements while hobnobbing with celebrity culture and politicians.

An injury during a massage led to stroke, disability and a slow decline; thus we only get to know Eli when is exhausted by living till the very end of his life. He decided upon using California’s End of Life Option Act that allows for medical aid in dying at the physician’s consent. ‘It is not assisted suicide’, as one caregiver puts it gently, but rather you have right to choose your own death- put an end humanely and respectably based on your wishes.

There could be a more political film about this issue but Ondi Timoner lets her extraordinary home-movie-esque footage do most of the talking so there are lots cameras present throughout each step chronicled over 14 days until Eli dies displayed as intertitles count down. There is something remarkable about this humbling mundanity where hordes of nurses look after Eli’s every need from spoon-feeding through shaving down up to sponge-bathing while wife children grandchildren scramble around making sure that their beloved darling remains comfortable. Ultimately this is a portrait of a person at their most vulnerable.

Eli, for his part, looks tired and depressed, drowsy from medication and impatient to finish things off — “I know I am a burden,” he says at one point — but stills retains embers of humour and spark. He constantly’s planning something else, goes on about politics, openly calling for the stuffing of Donald Trump’s balls in his throat. There are tears visible as well when the procession of family members and friends come to say goodbye both on Zoom and in person. It is a sort of controlled death; Eli is right that we cannot choose how we die but his life can serve as an example of why being responsible does matter.

Love can rarely be experienced so directly expressed on screen as here. The approaching finality of death with its fixed date seems to concentrate thought and clarify purpose. This inevitably becomes a highly emotional experience – never more so than in the almost unbearable tension of those last scenes where Eli has to swallow some deadly mixture which is beyond him in his frailty. The moment itself it passes, followed by silence after it- is dazzling. We feel like we are there because Ondi Timoner’s filmmaking was intimate enough for that. What an honor to be invited into the room!

Also, Read On Fmovies

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *