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Sundance: Last Flight Home

Documentary filmmaker Ondi Timoner has given us all a precious gift with her deeply personal film Last Flight Home. Her father Eli Timoner is the focus of this moving documentary about dying with dignity. He was the co-founder of Air Florida and with his wife Elissa they raised three children. A stroke in the early 1980s left Eli disabled. With the prejudice that came with a noticeable disability and some bad luck, Eli and his family eventually went bankrupt. Eli held onto the shame of this for many years. And for the last few weeks of his life, his family helped guide him in his journey to release this shame and to realize that his great success was the love he both gave and received.

Last Flight Home follows Eli and his family during his time at home in hospice. Because the family was based in California, he was able to opt for death with dignity so that he could pass away on his own terms. Timoner generously lets the viewer in, allowing us to feel like we are part of this very loving family. Death is a difficult subject to tackle but the more we know, the more we’re empowered to help each other and to help ourselves in this last journey in life. I’m not sure I’ve ever been as moved by  a documentary as I have with this one. Thank you to the Timoner family for letting us be part of Eli’s last flight home.

Last Flight Home premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

Update: Last Flight Home is distributed by MTV Documentary Films and hits theaters October 7th, 2022.

Sundance: The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future

Nature sings in Francisca Alegría’s magical realism film The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future. Magdalena (Mia Maestro) has emerged from the waters where she committed suicide many years ago. She visits the members of her family who all have different reactions to seeing her. Magdalena doesn’t speak but brings an energy with her that sparks electricity and makes the cows, the bees, the fish and other elements of nature sing beautiful music. While herr family is confused by her presence, Magdalena offers no closure; just reconnection.

This hauntingly beautiful Chilean fable reminds us that we are one with nature and we must protect it. It’s not a film to make sense of. Rather one to simply experience.

The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future premiered at the 2022 Sundance FIlm Festival.

Sundance: Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

Sixty something widow Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson) is looking for a new experience. She hires sex worker Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack) for an encounter. Nancy’s only ever been with one man, her now deceased husband, who preferred very matter-of-fact sex. Nancy really wants to be adventurous in the sack. And perhaps maybe an orgasm? She’s never had one before. But that might be too much to ask. Leo Grande is more than willing to help Nancy. The problem is that Nancy won’t stop talking, won’t stop worrying and won’t stop asking the fairly secretive Leo questions about his past. As Nancy books several encounters with Leo, she must come to terms with her own views of sexuality before she can find what she’s looking for.

Written by Katy Brand and directed by Sophie Hyde, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a dynamic exploration of age, sexuality and identity. The story plays out in four chapters and we see both growth and decline with Emma Thompson’s character. She’s absolutely terrific in this, which isn’t a surprise by any means. Thompson boldly ventures to demonstrate that, yes, an older woman can not only crave sex but they can be sexy too. Daryl McCormack holds his own opposite his costar. He portrays that natural confidence that makes Leo Grande such an engaging protagonist. While the first chapter can feel like a bit frustrating, viewers will ultimately be rewarded with the reach the film’s satisfying climax.

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

Update: Good Luck To You, Leo Grande premieres June 17th on Hulu.

Sundance: Am I OK?

Lucy (Dakota Johnson) and June (Sonoya Mizuno) are inseperable. When Lucy discovers that June is moving to London for her job, she’s beside herself. Especially because Lucy is starting to come to terms that despite many attempts at heteronormative relationships, she’s really not interested in men at all. June tries to help guide Lucy in her new journey of coming out of the closet but their disagreements on how Lucy should go about it and what will happen to their friendship when June leaves for London threatens to tear their relationship apart.

Directed by Stephanie Allynne and Tig Notaro Am I OK? is not your typical coming-out story and in that way it feels fresh and different. Lucy struggles with the intricacies of same sex attraction, especially the mixed signals she gets from her coworker. This film didn’t wow me but it was enjoying. Am I OK? is a heartfelt comedy about friendship and sexuality.

Note to add: I’m not sure when this was shot but there are several scenes that take place in the old 101 Coffee Shop which was a Hollywood treasure until it closed during the pandemic.  It’s now one of the locations for the Clark Street  chain.

Am I OK? premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

Sundance: Emily the Criminal

Emily (Aubrey Plaza) is feeling the weight of $70k worth of student loan debt and a criminal record that prevents her from getting a decent paying job. After covering a delivery shift for a coworker, she’s tipped off on a money making opportunity: working as a dummy shopper. Youcef (Theo Rossi) is the leader of a criminal ring in which he places stolen credit cards with dummy shoppers who will buy high value goods fraudulently to sell them for quick cash later. The gig is unpredictable and despite the danger Emily keeps at it. As Youcef leans on Emily for more advanced jobs, she clings to the hope that a traditional job as a designer might still be in her reach.

Written and directed by John Patton Ford, Emily the Criminal is a tense drama that begs for repeat viewings. It effectively demonstrates the fundamental flaw in our society that prevents former criminals from transitioning into law abiding citizens. It’s also really just an engaging story. Emily the Criminal is a great starring vehicle for Aubrey Plaza. I also really enjoyed Theo Rossi’s performance and his on screen chemistry with Plaza.

Emily the Criminal premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

Emily the Criminal hits theaters August 12, 2022. Visit the official website for more details. #EmilytheCriminal

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