Last Days of Left Eye illuminates much more than just the final days of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes’s life. Filmed in Honduras and directed by Lauren Lazin (Tupac: Resurrection), this nicely paced documentary cuts back and forth between Lopes’s rise to fame with TLC, the groundbreaking R&B trio of which she was a part, her personal tribulations (including the friction between the members of the group, the death of her father, and her infamously abusive relationship with professional football player Andre Rison), and her quest for spiritual peace in Central America. It’s clear from the beautifully composed shots in Honduras that the material was meant to be more than just another VH1 rock doc. The camera provides a revealing glimpse at Lopes without make-up, grandstanding or facing the pressures of public life. Without all that, Lopes proved to be an enlightened and inspiring woman, but one that was haunted by demons—perhaps even literally.
Haunting is the only way to describe Last Days. Lopes claimed she was being followed by a spirit, one that she believed was responsible for the accidental death of a Honduran boy who ran in front of her car days before her own death (the boy’s last name was Lopez, and she kept his shoes). The film’s final few minutes follow Lopes as she offers to pay for the boy’s treatment and eventual funeral, watches as his coffin is built, and most chillingly, drives with her friends and camera crew on the afternoon of her death. That everyone else in the car survived the crash—to say nothing of the footage, which captures the moment the rapper swerved off the road—adds an unsettling layer to Lopes’s premonitions of impending doom. (Lopes’s family requested that the complete footage of the fatal car crash remain unseen, but what little is shown stays with you long after the documentary ends.) Lopes considered death a transformation, not a finality, and, because of stunts like the one where she went missing for several days (also documented here), there was a sense of inevitability—even providence—in her death.
In one interview, Lopes says she believes her professional success was all about timing; she was in the right place with the right people at the right time, and chance was also a likely factor in her death. The tumultuous history of TLC has been well documented by the media and shows like VH1’s Behind the Music, in which Lopes famously crunched numbers to demonstrate how a multi-platinum act could go broke (some of that footage is included here as well), but the documentary leaves no room for doubt that Lopes was indeed the driving creative force behind the group. She was responsible for the trio’s image early on, promoting safe sex by wearing condoms on her big, baggy clothes, and she objected to TLC’s 1994 hit “Creep” because it encouraged women to cheat in retaliation rather than leave their unfaithful boyfriends or husbands. That desire to inspire people was the impetus behind Lopes’s increasingly vitriolic public criticism of the group.
The titular days in the film are defined by their numerological meanings, reflecting the astrological system that Lopes believed guided her life. What’s evident—and what Lopes didn’t seem to understand—is that TLC was a finely balanced trifecta; without all three members, the group would not—and did not—work (a fact exemplified by both TLC’s 3D and Lopes’s solo album Supernova). Lopes was an artist who followed the ethic of a hip-hop genre long gone, one that didn’t just reflect reality but attempted to affect change, and, after her record label refused to release Supernova, she tried to find other ways to do so. Lopes, who may have been haunted by her past but always kept one eye on the future, took a camera crew with her to Honduras, where she was helping to fund and build a children’s center. Perhaps fittingly, her final film project, one that displayed both a hunger to create and a desire to be understood by the public, would only see the light of day in the form of a eulogy.