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Film Overview: “Final Flight Dwelling” at Coral Gables Artwork Cinema

The concept of household turns into magnified as the vacation season approaches. In an analogous vein, as Thanksgiving approaches, Coral Gables Artwork Cinema is screening Final Flight Dwelling, a deeply private documentary from filmmaker Ondi Timoner. It ought to be famous that that is essentially the most somber of household portraits, because the movie chronicles the ultimate days of the household patriarch, Eli Timoner. On the identical time, it capabilities as a Thanksgiving movie because it explores a household coming collectively to precise their thankfulness to Eli’s presence and affect on their very own lives.

Ondi, from Miami and now positioned in Los Angeles, is the one nonfiction filmmaker to win the Sundance Grand Jury Prize in Documentary twice — in 2014 for Dig!, which examines the rivalry between two aught bands, the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Bloodbath; and in 2009 for We Stay in Public, in regards to the rise and fall of web pioneer Josh Harris.

In her newest documentary, Ondi turns the digicam on her father, Eli, one other rise-and-fall story of a larger-than-life determine in her personal life. The outcomes are blended, as making a documentary about one’s family could be a double-edged sword. Problems with objectivity and subjectivity, what’s private and what’s common, linger all through the movie. Its verité fashion typically straddles residence video, however Ondi’s funding additionally produces an intimate, unfiltered, and unflinching take a look at one household’s historical past and mortality.

The movie opens at a Los Angeles medical middle with voiceovers of telephone conversations. Haunting a lot of the movie is the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly the methods it impacted households and our relationship to dying. Early on, Eli expresses his need to die. The movie captures the ultimate two weeks of Eli’s life as he workouts his proper to die below California’s Finish of Life Possibility Act, which at present is out there solely to terminally sick adults. Nevertheless, this isn’t a documentary about end-of-life rights or assisted suicide, because it by no means actually explores any consenting voices.

It does seize a number of the fascinating bureaucratic and mundane particulars of the method. Eli should undergo a rigorously calibrated course of to finish his life that each empowers and frustrates him. The movie is a wonderful introduction for anybody going by means of or planning to undergo an analogous course of. The method of discovering the right-sized cup and straw size to permit Eli to manage the ultimate concoction himself or the stipulation that it have to be completed inside two minutes — not a second over — was illuminating. It’s a course of that’s so private but additionally dictated by rigorously calibrated insurance policies with medical, authorized, and political implications. Although the movie forgoes these thorny points for a extra private method and scope.

Whereas Eli is entrance and middle for a lot of the movie, his backstory doesn’t seem till greater than 20 minutes into the movie. A businessman and enterprise capitalist who based Air Florida, Eli and his household’s life modified considerably after he skilled a stroke brought on by a therapeutic massage gone flawed. In declining well being, he was pressured to go away the enterprise, which the filmmaker argues was discriminatory. One second that will get on the coronary heart of Eli is when he says he doesn’t need complete freedom — he desires accountability. There’s a sense his decline in well being and the failure of Air Florida is one thing that haunts him in his ultimate days. He now views himself as a burden to these round him however can be equally fed up with being “maneuvered” by others and never answerable for his personal physique.

click on to enlarge

The Timoner household in 1979

Picture courtesy of MTV Documentary Movies

Whereas his physique is failing, his thoughts stays sharp and lucid as he tells jokes and gives counsel to the household round him. He advises a grandchild that one of the simplest ways to stay life is having “respect for the folks you don’t know, and love for the folks that you just do know,” whereas additionally harboring a deep resentment of Donald Trump, who exemplifies the alternative. In some ways, Eli is an ideal topic for the suitable to finish one’s personal life as he stays persistent and unwavering in his determination. However simply because the movie is just not precisely about the suitable to finish one’s life, it additionally isn’t precisely about Eli.

Probably the most attention-grabbing side of Final Flight Dwelling is these round Eli. He’s resolute in his determination, and the household views it as a blessing that they know what’s coming and might use this time to be “aware” about his impending departure. It’s the household dynamics which are one of the best a part of the documentary however really feel underdeveloped or underexplored. One such avenue is Eli’s relationship together with his daughter Rachel, who’s a rabbi. She remarks that, right now, he’s leaning on her as a rabbi on the precise second she desires to be a daughter. Likewise, Ondi is upset that her mom spends her time telling tales. After all, Ondi simply doesn’t need her mom to have any regrets from this time and desires to foster communication between her mother and father. On the identical time, her mom’s need to relate appears intrinsically related to Ondi’s need to doc, however the movie doesn’t dive into that curious parallel. There may be even a way that possibly Eli doesn’t precisely just like the documentation course of however realizes that it’s what his daughter wants to deal with the circumstances.

Maybe distance, one other filmmaker, or much more time, would enable the movie to discover these sorts of moments. However, ultimately, solely Ondi may make this movie. There may be an admirable, but messy, immediacy and intimacy to Final Flight Dwelling that may resonate with audiences. It’s unhappy, celebratory, and above all cathartic, a movie that forces an viewers to confront mortality and prompts one to consider their relationship with family members, with dying, and with how they need all of it to finish.

Final Flight Dwelling. Directed by Ondi Timoner. Not rated. 101 minutes. Premieres Friday, November 18 at Coral Gables Artwork Cinema, 260 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables, 786-472-2249; Tickets price $12.75. Opening reception at 6 p.m. adopted by a screening and Q&A with director Ondi Timoner on Friday, November 18. Tickets price $21.75.



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