Love, Antosha (2019) ☆☆☆(3/4): Remembering Anton Yelchin

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As watching documentary film “Love, Antosha”, I could not help but reminded of what a tragic and senseless loss the death of Anton Yelchin was. Since his breakthrough turn in “Hearts in Atlantis” (2001), he steadily advanced to become one of the most diligent and talented young actors working in Hollywood during next 15 years, but, alas, he suddenly died in 2016 because of a terrible vehicle accident, and that was all the more tragic considering how much he tried to go further with his life and career despite his serious medical problem.

At the beginning, the documentary gives us a brief summary of the early years of Yelchin’s life. Yelchin’s parents, Viktor and Irina Yelchin, were fairly successful professional ice skaters in Russia, but, not long after Irina became pregnant, they decided to leave their country then go to US because of the rise of anti-Semitism in their country at that time. When their young son began to show considerable potential in acting, they wholly supported him, and a series of old home video clips show us how willing young Yelchin was to express himself in front of the camera.

Yelchin’s parents subsequently sent their son to an acting class for kids, and it did not take much time for young Yelchin to develop his passion and talent further. As his acting teacher correctly observed, he was quite ready for moving onto the next steps waiting for him, and he soon got an opportunity to appear in one episode of TV drama series “ER”, where he was memorable as a boy who has just lost his parent.

After that point, young Yelchin came to appear in several small films including “A Man Is Mostly Water” (2000) and “Delivering Milo” (2001), where he appeared along with not only Albert Finney but also John Cho, with whom he would reunite in J.J. Abrams’ recent Star Trek movies. In “Hearts in Atlantis”, he did far more than holding his place well in front of Anthony Hopkins, and Hopkins and director Scott Hicks willingly tell us how much they were impressed by Yelchin’s natural talent on the set.

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Thanks to his good performances in other notable films such as “House of D” (2004), “Alpha Dog” (2006), and “Charlie Bartlett” (2007), Yelchin’s career continued to advance, but then he came to learn about his serious medical condition. Although he had looked mostly fine, he was already diagnosed to have an incurable genetic respiratory illness called cystic fibrosis, and his parents had hidden that fact from him for several years mainly because they were afraid that their young son might not be able to handle it.

However, that depressing fact did not deter Yelchin much, and we hear from various interviewees including his parents on how he kept trying to move on as much as he could. In addition to appearing in numerous films, he continued to nurture his personal interest in music, photograph, and filmmaking, and we later see him performing along with his band members. As far as I can see, he was a fairly good musician, and his musical talent was certainly utilized well in “Rudderless” (2014) and “Green Room” (2015).

Moreover, he was always nice and friendly to others around him, and many different people who worked along with him reminisces about what an interesting and likable lad he was. The documentary interviews a bunch of notable performers including Ben Foster, Kristen Stewart, Zachary Quinto, Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, Anya Taylor-Joy, Jennifer Lawrence, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sofia Boutella, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Willem Dafoe, Frank Langella, Jon Voight, and late Martin Landau, and they all fondly remember Yelchin in one way or another. In case of Pine, he tells us a bit about a certain amusingly naughty side of Yelchin, and then we see a number of cheerfully salacious photographs which Yelchin took during his occasional adventures into the seedy areas of LA.

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However, Yelchin often could not help but troubled by his chronic illness, which was bound to limit his life and career considerably. While he had paid lots of attention to his medical condition, he also had to hide it from the public because he might not work again in Hollywood, and he sometimes felt quite exhausted and frustrated as reflected by the excerpts from his personal diary, which is calmly read by Nicholas Cage on the soundtrack.

Nevertheless, Yelchin did not let himself daunted by his growing concern on his health. Around the time when the shooting of “Star Trek Beyond” (2016) was completed, he was planning to make a feature film which was supposed to his directorial debut, and he also had a vacation in London along with his two close friends for some fun and relaxation, but then he passed away because of that horrible accident. As reflecting on his untimely death, Yelchin’s parents cannot help but become emotional in front of the camera, and that is the most poignant moment in the documentary.

Competently directed by Garrett Price, “Love, Antosha” is a sincere and respectful documentary which serves us an intimate portrait of a young talented artist who left too early, and you will come to appreciate a lot what Yelchin achieved during his short but productive acting career. He is no longer with us now, but he left a number of good performances to remember at least, and you may want to check them out after watching this fine documentary.

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