This is unflinching, but is very much a film of love and understanding
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“Last Flight” is at once a memorial to Eli, the last of that generation of the family to die, and — almost incidentally — a philosophical argument about how death can be faced well.
As proven in Ondi Timoner’s unbelievably personal, profoundly bittersweet, and occasionally disquieting documentary “Last Flight Home,” having agency over one’s final departure isn’t exclusively reserved for those existing in conflict with the status quo.
Last Flight Home is an anguished therapy session disguised as a meditation on life and death.
Yes, this crushingly personal film can make you feel like you’re intruding on a sacred ritual between perfect strangers, but that sense of trespassing (or TMI) is also what allows Last Flight Home to be such an immediate argument for the universal right to die.
Timoner uses a stripped-down, totally straightforward method. She sets up a camera in her parent’s living room, where her father is resting in a hospital bed and her mother is silently worrying on the couch. And then she begins counting down the days.
Ultimately, and perhaps most beautifully, the film makes a case, à la the musical “Rent,” about how, in the end, we must measure our life in love. On that score, Eli Timoner left the world a very wealthy man.
Like caring for someone at the end of their lives, Last Flight Home might not be the easiest film to experience, but it is an accurate representation of the ups, downs, and mixed emotions of those times, crafted with compassion, nuance, and great warmth.
It is a tribute, a grappling with mortality, an exercise in self-surveillance, a messy home movie, a brief account of aviation history and a lesson in letting go and grief.
Any documentary that points to a way out of the agonizing, expensive, life-extending trap of “The American Way of Death” is worth a look. This one, affectionate and atypical, poignant and privileged, grates almost as often as it moves.