LAST FLIGHT HOME – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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Ondi Timonen’s highly personal, profoundly bittersweet, and somewhat disquieting documentary Last Flight Home is about having agency over one’s final departure that isn’t exclusively reserved for those existing in conflict with the status quo. Her father, Eli Timoner, was resolute on exercising California’s End of Life Option Act—only available to terminally ill adults. Several European nations protect this course of action within stringent limitations, but only 11 states in the permit what’s known as “medical aid in dying. “ As a director, Timoner doesn’t take up any debate over her father wanting to control his final days.

Timoner, however, doesn’t concern herself with any ideological debate over the morality of her elderly dad’s chosen passage into the afterlife. Instead, she illustrates the value of people having this resource through her family’s first-hand experience. For her, the subject transitioned from theoretical talking point to a hard-to-face reality. Still, the lack of big-picture context on the issue ultimately comes across as a missed opportunity to inform.

Timoner waits a bit too long to tell the viewers to that her father suffered a stroke in 1982 after getting a massage that left him partially paralyzed for the next 40 years and that Eli helped run the now-defunct carrier Air Florida. But the bulk of the images immortalize Eli as he lovingly and lucidly interacts with in-person visitors and loved ones over Zoom to say goodbye despite his weakened state. The last 15 days leading up to the event provide Last Flight Home with a built-in structure to which the filmmaker attaches multiple interviews with her siblings: Rachel, a rabbi, and David as well as their mother Lucy at different stages in the ordeal of confronting mortality.

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Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a contributor for the online awards site Gold Derby and is an Oscar expert for RogerEbert.com. Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to RogerEbert.com, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.