September 22, 2023


Make Some Fun

Ondi Timoner Chronicles Her Father’s Quest for Dignified Loss of life 

3 min read

Ondi Timoner’s Sundance-debuting Last Flight Home is each a celebratory tribute to, and an incredibly intimate portrait of, a hardworking enterprise and household man, whom adversity rendered a mensch. Certainly, the nonagenarian entrepreneur on the coronary heart of this vérité doc — a Miami native who based Air Florida, the fastest-growing airline on the earth in the course of the Nineteen Seventies — was dwelling an idyllic life till a neck cracking by a masseuse left the colourful extrovert partially paralyzed on the age of 53. To compound the tragedy, this freak accident occurred earlier than the 1990 passage of the People with Disabilities Act, thus permitting the upstart air service to legally drive out the person accountable for constructing it.

Nonetheless, with Sunshine State optimism, grit, and drive — and the love and help of an adoring household, together with a filmmaker daughter named Ondi — Eli Timoner managed to create a joyful, impartial, and dignified life for himself. Which is why he in the end determined to finish that life, on his personal phrases.

Not like Timoner’s prior work documenting Sort A males (as an illustration, 2015’s Model: A Second Coming, 2018’s Mapplethorpe), Final Flight Residence was not initially supposed for outdoor eyes. The result’s an oftentimes uncomfortably voyeuristic expertise — home-movie private and emotionally brutal. The director herself has described the doc as “borne of desperation,” primarily a way to seize the essence of her father’s life by filming the countdown to his remaining day on earth. And on this sense Final Flight Residence serves extra as a most uncommon guidebook: a warts-and-all, 14-day account greatest seen by the terminally ailing and their family members, particularly in the event that they’re fortunate sufficient to reside in a state like California, which in 2016 handed the Finish of Life Choice Act, requiring just a few hoops and a 15-day ready interval to acquire a loss of life with dignity. At its core, Final Flight Residence is a cinematic “What to Count on When You’re Anticipating” for this specific sort of loss of life.

Ondi Timoner and Eli Timoner in a scene From Final Flight Residence, directed by Ondi Timoner, 2022

Which results in the thornier facet of this noble enterprise — particularly that every particular person loss of life is as totally different as every start; Eli’s ending can’t be thought-about in any approach “typical.” This isn’t a quibble with the movie itself, which is painstakingly (and painfully) true to the Timoner household’s narrative, however with the dearth of any counter-narrative accessible to the broader public. As a result of there are so few true-to-life documentaries in regards to the nuts and bolts of assisted loss of life, audiences might find yourself taking the Timoner expertise because the norm — proper up till the fraught second when viewers understand that holding a glass on his personal and ingesting the medication in lower than two minutes may be a requirement the incapacitated man can not fulfill. It’s not the filmmaker’s accountability to current “all sides”; as a substitute, the movie factors up the failure of movie and different media to painting the huge spectrum of loss of life. The doc dangers being acquired as some kind of definitive guide for households going via, or contemplating, the euthanasia route.

Watching the movie I questioned the way to reconcile Eli’s bumpy touchdown with, say, my retired hospice director mother’s expertise of the “best and most stunning loss of life” she’d ever witnessed? Eli may need waited too lengthy to decide on assisted dying. In distinction, my mom’s nonagenarian buddy was in a position not solely to simply carry a cup to his lips, however to savor and have fun these final minutes along with his household, relaxed and with out worry, earlier than passing away rapidly and painlessly. Ultimately there are not any straightforward solutions in fact, and but one factor stays crystal clear: a dignified life deserves a dignified loss of life. And that will take myriad kinds.

Clockwise from high left: Lisa Timoner, Eli Timoner, Rachel Timoner, Ondi Timoner, and David Timoner in an archival picture taken at Boeing HQ in Seattle on October 30, 1979. From Final Flight Residence, directed by Ondi Timoner, 2022

Last Flight Home is out there to stream on Paramount Plus and different streaming providers.

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