Synopsis: A portrait of the extraordinary life and career of actor Anton Yelchin.
Stars: Irina Yelchin, Viktor Yelchin, Anton Yelchin, Drake Doremus, J.J. Abrams, Sofia Boutella, John Cho, Willem Dafoe, Jennifer Lawrence, Jodie Foster, Chris Pine
Director: Garrett Price
Running Length: 92 minutes
TMMM Score: (7.5/10)
Review: Love, Antosha starts out like many documentaries about a life cut short often do. A young child is being filmed by his dad showing off his imagination in creating a world of his own. Even in this brief moment, we see the light of interest in the boy, a spark of undeniable joy of life and you can just imagine what the parent on the other end of the camera was feeling in watching their son. The boy would grow up to be a loving son, a trusted friend, a gifted artist, a curious man, a photographer, a movie star, and the victim of tragic accident that took his life at 27.
Born in Leningrad to parents famous in their own right as figure skaters in the Ice Ballet and qualifiers in the 1972 Olympics, Anton Yelchin and his family came to America in 1989 with the hopes of starting a new life away from the oppression of the Soviet regime. Barely six months old when he arrived in the United States, Anton grew up in California and, nurtured by parents that supported their only child, found his way into acting, first in commercials and eventually in small movies that lead to bigger roles. Early co-stars included Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman, Diane Lane, and Robin Williams. An engaging lead or a scene-stealing supporting player, Yelchin was equally at home in bold indies or big blockbusters.
Director Garrett Price has amassed a healthy collection of archival footage of Yelchin (Green Room, Only Lovers Left Alive, Star Trek) from personal videos to press interviews and he intersperses those with memories from his family, friends and co-workers that clearly held him in high regard. Not surprisingly, there isn’t anyone that has a bad thing to say about the young man and with good reason. From the hand-written letters to his parents to videos with friends, he seems like the thoughtful and considerate life-of-the-party. If he couldn’t speak it, he would put it to music and sing it. And any note to his mother always ended with the two words in the movie title.
What gives Love, Antosha an extra boost is that while Yelchin was a familiar face from his numerous film and television credits, he wasn’t much in the public eye during his time in Hollywood. Most of his closest friends weren’t in the business and if they were, they too kept a low profile. That allows Price an opportunity to spend more time showcasing the Yelchin we didn’t get to see, and it gives the interview subjects a moment to shine a light on their fallen friend and collaborator. We also learn some surprising facts about Yelchin related to his health only released after his death that show how much the actor overcame to get where he was, which weirdly winds up giving greater irony to his fatal accident. Yelchin may already have been playing on borrowed time, so his zest for life wasn’t entirely without preparation.
Considering how many productions Yelchin was involved with, it’s amazing Price was able to get small slices of time with a host of A-List talent and ask them to reflect on their time with the actor. Directors like Jodie Foster and J.J. Abrams speak of an intellectual actor able to make even the smallest moment matter in unexpected ways, co-stars Chris Pine and Willem Dafoe remark on Yelchin’s extra-curricular activities as a photographer interested in the seedier side of things, and friends Jennifer Lawrence and John Cho offer additional insights into what made Yelchin such a dynamic presence to be around. Special mention for Kristen Stewart who speaks with a mixture of youthful embarrassment but adult graciousness on how Yelchin was her first heartbreak. Most poignant are the moments spent with his parents who came to this country searching for a better life and now spend each day visiting their son’s grave.
The bits and pieces of a life could never be summed up in 90 minutes but Price has done wonderful work sketching out the trajectory of how Yelchin came to make his way up through Hollywood. At the same time, it miraculously doesn’t dwell in the melancholy of his tragic death, either. Though obviously still grieving the loss of their only child, his parents have a matter-of-factness to the way they speak of their son. They clearly still have that image of the boy working through new make believe in front of the camera in their heads…and now they have Love, Antosha to remind them how much he meant to others as well.