In the summer of 2016, the year everyone in Hollywood seemed to die, a young actor, perpetually always on the rise, was crushed between his car and the front gate of his home in Los Angeles. The freak accident, mainly due to a recalled 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee, left a wake in the Hollywood community, taking indie darling Anton Yelchin just before his prime. I recall seeing a lot of, “That guy?” “The guy from Star Trek?” on Twitter at the time. Though his career was long and had many moderate successes, he never really was a household name. The documentary Love, Antosha seeks to provide more insight on the actor and dive past the “quirky leading man” at the surface.
Told mainly through interviews with his friends, family and collaborators, his own music and photography, home movies and film footage, the film tries to provide a well-rounded look into the actor’s childhood, career, personal life, and death to emphasize the loss of the actor. The pure star power of the interviewees proves Anton’s impact on the industry. Willem Dafoe, Chris Pine, Simon Pegg, Jennifer Lawrence, Jodi Foster, JJ Abrams, Kristen Stewart, just to name a few, all recount various experiences with the actor on set. Nick Cage recites Anton’s journal entries and emails with a fiery passion, emphasizing Anton’s obsession with expressing himself.
One new revelation the documentary brings to light is Anton’s struggle with cystic fibrosis throughout his career, and the impact it had on his job and mental health. It is evident that this illness contributed to his quest for knowledge and his of making art. Interviews with his doctors, friends, and family show how he was able to separate from his life on set.
While the film doesn’t explicitly point out Anton’s faults, though you do get a sense of them, his quirks are brought to the forefront. He was an obsessive writer, translated Russian philosophers at 17, took erotic photography and was known in seedy L.A. sex clubs. You get the sense that the film skims over some of the racier entertaining stories from Anton’s life, which might have tainted the image filmmaker Garret Price wanted to portray, but would have provided a more authentic look into a man whose mind was always running. “The sense that you got from Anton was intensity, intelligence, and at the same time, you got the sense that he was living,” Guillermo del Toro says. You definitely get that sense from Love, Antosha, however the desire to dig deeper lingers.
Like all documentaries, this one isn’t just about its subject, an artist gone too soon, it’s a parental love letter to the kid that left them behind. While the documentary does a great job in conveying the loss of an artist, the film’s best moments are during interviews with his parents Irina and Viktor. Whether its Irina fondly talking about finding condoms in his jacket pocket or the numerous letters he wrote her as a child or Viktor talking with a passion about why they left Russia, you get the sense that their main purpose in life was their son. And through home video of the love songs he wrote for his mother, you understand that Anton felt the same way. Jennifer Lawrence says through tears, “Everybody loves their children, but I don’t think anybody loved their child the way (his parents) loved Anton.”
Whether you have heard of him, recognize him, or were familiar with his work, you feel his loss when the credits roll. The echoes of what could have been one of the greatest film careers of all time. “I just think that the human race has been cheated. In a world that moves on very quickly, I don’t want him to ever be forgotten,” the late great Martin Landau says of the actor in the film. If that is the mission statement of the film, then it has done its job, almost painstakingly so.
Rating: 4 out of 5