I’ve done the math and, as of March 24 of this year, I have lived longer than Anton Yelchin.
It’s unfair, really, that such an obviously talented and genuinely nice person had his life cut so short. It doesn’t make sense – not in the slightest.
It’s also unfair that Yelchin will probably be best remembered for the way he died- pinned between a dysfunctional automobile and a gate, literally crushed to death in a freak accident.
The specter of that death certainly looms over Garret Price’s lovely documentary “Love, Antosha,” which provides a heartfelt retrospective of the young actor, who died at age 27. But the film’s greatest triumph is that it never loses sight of Yelchin’s life- his childlike sense of wonder, his passion for filmmaking, his love for his family.
This is not a film about death – it is a film about a short life lived to the fullest. That’s why it works.
Structurally, the film is straightforward and unexceptional – following the linear path of Yelchin’s life and career with the help of numerous talking heads, both famous (Chris Pine! Kristen Stewart! Jennifer Lawrence!) and not (his parents, his childhood friends, his doctors).
Most of these talking heads aren’t all that interesting, and the film borders on hagiography at times. Obviously, you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, but a constant stream of compliments (“There was nothing about him that wasn’t wonderful,” Frank Langella says of Yelchin) doesn’t necessarily make for riveting cinema. Neither do the numerous movie clips from Yelchin’s career – from TV spots on “ER” and “Curb your Enthusiasm” to blockbuster “Star Trek” and “Terminator” pictures – that pad the running time.
Price even samples a scene from “The Smurfs 2.” You would think that could have been left on the cutting room floor.
What does work is the oodles of archival footage, including home videos from Yelchin’s childhood and old TV interviews, along with samplings of Yelchin’s many personal writings. Yelchin comes alive in these segments, even if Nicolas Cage, who reads the letters, isn’t exactly a great embodiment of Yelchin’s childlike whimsy.
These scenes help the film move past hagiography to show a more complex portrait of Yelchin – passionate and perfectionistic with a weirdly kinky side and a love for artistic expression in all forms including music and photography.
He was also a fighter in a lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis, and his desire to not just survive, but to thrive – to live each day to the fullest despite his difficulties- is genuinely inspiring.
“The thing about Anton is that he had this intelligence and this intensity, but you also had the sense he was living,” director Guillermo Del Toro says.
That sense of life permeates “Love, Antosha” (rated R for language, some sexual content and nudity) and is its best quality, I think. This is a film that encourages us to love passionately, push past our obstacles and make the most of every day we have on earth.
If there’s one thing Anton’s story teaches us, it is that tomorrow is never guaranteed. But, if there’s a second thing it teaches us, it is that if we live today well, we will be remembered long after tomorrow.
Even a life of 27 years, three months and eight days can make an indelible impact on friends, family and people we will never even meet, “Love, Antosha” tells us. It then asks us how we’ll live our own lives and whether we will dare to be as intentional and courageous as Anton was.
About the author
Stephen Dow is an award-winning journalist with a passion for film – not just consuming it, but thoughtfully and actively engaging with it. He believes that these modern myths have a lot to tell us about our world and ourselves. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.