REVIEW: A Grandfather’s Final Days in ‘Last Flight Home’

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Last Flight Home - But Why Tho

Eli Timoner was a father, a grandfather, a business owner, and a 92-year-old man who chose to end his life in 2021 after prolonged sickness and suffering while surrounded by his family and with the assistance of medication approved by the State of California for such purposes. His daughter, award-winning documentarian Ondi Timoner, recorded the whole saga in Last Flight Home.

I am deeply death-phobic. Of all my anxieties, my anxiety around people I love dying is among the most constant, the most pervasive, and the most difficult. Last Flight Home is an entire documentary about the final days before somebody’s death. It’s immensely difficult to watch at times, yet completely required viewing for anybody who struggles with death. From the moment the film starts, Eli knows that he is ready for his life to end. And for the full length of the film, we watch as his family brings him comfort, aids him through the process of dying with dignity, and helps him say goodbye to the people he loves.

The documentary is presented chiefly through cameras in Eli’s home as they capture the comings and goings of his family over the course of the waiting period before he is allowed to be dispensed and take the medication. Interwoven are voiceovers from family members, especially Ondi, as footage and images from Eli’s life are shown. It’s impossible not to feel drawn into their lives, their relationships, and the deep, deep sadness of this experience. Yet, there’s also great comfort in how staunchly every friend and family member supports Eli in his decision and offers him love and support in his last days.

There are moments as the film drew on where the editing had sharp edges cutting between shots. And a certain number of minutes of the film were perhaps added in for the sake of indulging in more time with her father than was strictly necessary to capture the full journey Ondi was filming. But in such a raw and personal endeavor, I can hardly hold that against her.

Of course, where I was most personally touched by the film was in its Jewishness. The entire saga has me painfully reminiscing on my own grandfather’s dying days: the ways the Jewish ritualistic aspects likely looked similar for him, the moments I did and didn’t have to mourn or take joy while it was happening, and when it was over. But moreover, Eli’s other daughter, Rachel, is a rabbi. And while I don’t know her, I have heard her speak, I know her colleagues well, and I know her community. I can’t help but feel that, through those connections, I do know her, and I know her family, and I know Eli. And whether it’s those connections or that their family is so like mine, Last Flight Home leaves me with every feeling borne of losing a loved one.

Last Flight Home is a deeply personal and rather difficult documentary, demonstrating precisely what it looks like to die with dignity and choose when that time will be for yourself. It holds nothing back and will run you absolutely raw emotionally. For anybody who is challenged by death and dying, for anybody who has loved ones considering this process, and for anybody who might be seeking a way to help bring meaning and intentionality to the end of somebody’s life, Last Flight Home is absolutely required viewing.

Last Flight Home is playing now in select theaters.


Last Flight Home
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

Last Flight Home is a deeply personal and rather difficult documentary, demonstrating precisely what it looks like to die with dignity and chose when that time will be for yourself. It holds nothing back and will run you absolutely raw emotionally. For anybody who is challenged by death and dying, for anybody who has loved ones considering this process, and for anybody who might be seeking a way to help bring meaning and intentionality to the end of somebody’s life, Last Flight Home is absolutely required viewing.

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