‘Last Flight Home’ Review: An Intimate Memorial

In the moving, boundlessly humane documentary “Last Flight Home,” the director Ondi Timoner filmed the final days of her father’s life. Her father, Eli Timoner, chose to die at age 92 under California’s End of Life Option Act, which at the time required, among other steps, a 15-day waiting period after the patient’s first oral request to a doctor for aid-in-dying medication.

“Last Flight Home” is far more than simply a countdown of those days, but it is that, illuminatingly. Eli is questioned by doctors and counselors. Ondi and other family members manage logistics, such as trying to find a cup and a straw that Eli, who must take the drugs himself, will be able to hold in his immobilized state. (Confined to a bed, he has congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and was partly paralyzed by a stroke at 53.)

But even more than it is a procedural, “Last Flight Home” is a record of what Lisa Timoner, Eli’s wife of more than five decades, calls the “unreality” of what is happening, as Eli winds down his life — saying goodbye to loved ones and friends, often by video call because of Covid — with a known final date.

Ondi, who filmed with inconspicuous cameras that were simply left running, has emerged with an amazingly intimate portrait of Eli and his family, including Ondi’s two siblings, Rachel and David Timoner, their partners and their children. There is even some humor. Death date or no, Eli still needs to watch Rachel Maddow. When asked how he feels about being mic’d all the time, Eli waggishly says that he doesn’t want to “cross the director.”

Near the end, Ondi makes sure that Lisa simply spends some time quietly sitting with Eli. Rachel Timoner, a rabbi, helps him unburden lingering shames. “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.

Last Flight Home
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 41 minutes. In theaters.

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