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Last Flight Home review – heartbreaking portrait of assisted dying | Film

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Ondi Timoner’s home-movie memoir is a heartbreaking and unexpectedly complex film about her elderly father in his final days. Eli Timoner was a swashbuckling entrepreneur who founded the budget airline Air Florida in the 1980s, became a stroke survivor in middle age, and finally, facing terrible ill-health, opted to end his own life under a Californian law that enforces a 15-day grace period in which the patient has time to reflect before the fatal drugs are administered. In fact they are self-administered: the applicant has to drink the hemlock-equivalent themselves, and there are wrenchingly tense scenes in which Mr Timoner tremblingly practises holding a cup in his hand. If he can’t, the whole thing is off.

The camera movingly witnesses his family paying visits and assembling round his death bed and he also has very touching goodbyes with his old friends and colleagues via Skype and an iPad held up to his face. But the complexity comes with his wife, Ondi’s mother Elissa, who is often a little apart from the group, lying down on a couch nearby, clearly exhausted by the lifelong burden of caring for Eli and perhaps nursing mixed feelings in her heart about all these people showing up at the final hour who perhaps don’t appreciate how difficult he can be – and how she herself deserves some of this outpouring of love.

And there is a riveting moment when Eli’s other daughter, a rabbi who is presiding over the funeral, runs through his procedure for entering the afterlife as matter-of-factly as the nurses explain how to take the final liquid. And it is with her that Eli has to confess what guilty feelings burden him: failing to repay personal debts to business colleagues. His wife says that she went on Prozac when they had to declare bankruptcy. The question of how exactly this wealthy and celebrated man became financially embarrassed is the great unanswered question of the film. When Ondi tries supportively prompting him about how he got out of his difficulties, her sister sharply silences her, saying that this kind of narrative-promotion is inappropriate.

Maybe so, although I sensed that Elissa very much has this financial narrative at the forefront of her mind and could tell a sharply detailed tale if she wanted to. But this isn’t the time. One tiny footnote: I would have liked to hear more about the family discussions that must have arisen when Ondi – director of Dig! and We Live in Public – asked her dad and her family if she was allowed to film so intimately. Did any family member object? This is an almost unbearably painful and emotional group family portrait.

Last Flight Home is released on 25 November in cinemas.


Ondi Timoner’s home-movie memoir is a heartbreaking and unexpectedly complex film about her elderly father in his final days. Eli Timoner was a swashbuckling entrepreneur who founded the budget airline Air Florida in the 1980s, became a stroke survivor in middle age, and finally, facing terrible ill-health, opted to end his own life under a Californian law that enforces a 15-day grace period in which the patient has time to reflect before the fatal drugs are administered. In fact they are self-administered: the applicant has to drink the hemlock-equivalent themselves, and there are wrenchingly tense scenes in which Mr Timoner tremblingly practises holding a cup in his hand. If he can’t, the whole thing is off.

The camera movingly witnesses his family paying visits and assembling round his death bed and he also has very touching goodbyes with his old friends and colleagues via Skype and an iPad held up to his face. But the complexity comes with his wife, Ondi’s mother Elissa, who is often a little apart from the group, lying down on a couch nearby, clearly exhausted by the lifelong burden of caring for Eli and perhaps nursing mixed feelings in her heart about all these people showing up at the final hour who perhaps don’t appreciate how difficult he can be – and how she herself deserves some of this outpouring of love.

And there is a riveting moment when Eli’s other daughter, a rabbi who is presiding over the funeral, runs through his procedure for entering the afterlife as matter-of-factly as the nurses explain how to take the final liquid. And it is with her that Eli has to confess what guilty feelings burden him: failing to repay personal debts to business colleagues. His wife says that she went on Prozac when they had to declare bankruptcy. The question of how exactly this wealthy and celebrated man became financially embarrassed is the great unanswered question of the film. When Ondi tries supportively prompting him about how he got out of his difficulties, her sister sharply silences her, saying that this kind of narrative-promotion is inappropriate.

Maybe so, although I sensed that Elissa very much has this financial narrative at the forefront of her mind and could tell a sharply detailed tale if she wanted to. But this isn’t the time. One tiny footnote: I would have liked to hear more about the family discussions that must have arisen when Ondi – director of Dig! and We Live in Public – asked her dad and her family if she was allowed to film so intimately. Did any family member object? This is an almost unbearably painful and emotional group family portrait.

Last Flight Home is released on 25 November in cinemas.

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