Love, Antosha (2019)

“Anton was like a sponge.”

For those familiar with the truly astonishing work of the late Anton Yelchin, it should come as no surprise that – from a hopeful hello, to a bright-eyed career full of boundless possibility, to his tragic departure from the here and the now – the documentary of his life is as soulful as it is impactful. That, like Anton, the picture is deeply introspective and naturally artistic. And yes, the film is quite literally a reciprocated love letter between the dearly departed and those who remain, but even more than that serves as a beacon of hope for those who feel aimless. Love, Antosha begs us to wake up, to smell the roses, and to live life passionately. We only get this body once, so might as well mindfully use it as best we can.

One of the great joys in the incredibly comprehensive Love, Antosha is that we get to see Anton as a young boy, full of such unforgiving boundless creativity and commanding control that his pursuit of the arts not only felt necessary, but practically inevitable. After all, his affectionate parents were an ice skating duo. So while purely athletic pursuits never held his interest, Anton fell in love with storytelling, eventually figuring out that as an actor you get to be a cog in the complex system of make belief. A human wrench capable Рif willing Рto turn the nuts and the bolts of things. He was game. Always. Even leading up to his untimely end.

I hate to say it, but there are moments where Garret Price’s documentary drags and loses focus, especially in the final 30 minutes, and I was surprised that the film felt longer than expected. But I wonder if that merely echoes Yelchin’s life – quietly battling the grim death sentence and the audible effects of his hidden cystic fibrosis diagnosis – as he lived in the moment without total regard for the future. That so many family and friends and co-stars appear throughout the feature remembering him not just vividly, but fondly and with a glazed gaze and equally crestfallen eyes, illustrates the kind of massive impact a physically small man was able to impart on such a global scale. His authentic artistry came from places of real wonder and pain and love, much to an intoxicating effect. You didn’t just watch him; you came to know him.

Maybe that’s why I feel like I’m writing about a man I had the pleasure of meeting on more than one occasion, and perhaps that is the enduring professional legacy of Anton Yelchin. Not only does his work speak for itself, but it continues to communicate with us to this day. From the reflective tragedy of his character in Alpha Dog, to his ageless charm in 5 to 7, to the nuanced and knowing fatalism he couldn’t withhold throughout Like Crazy (one of the best films of 2011). Love, Antosha peaks a bit too early when it finds an overwhelming emotional state with Anton’s parents, earns a creative badge when Nic Cage begins to narrate Anton’s many cards, and yet it’s never more powerful than when the mother & son dynamic showers each other with cosigned letters of affection. Anton Yelchin wasn’t a master of none, but more a purveyor of all, and Love, Antosha curates his passions into a film where he can be remembered and appreciated and appropriately missed. Few of his time did it any better. The phrase “What if?” has rarely ever felt so unfair. At least we got what he was able to give.

“I wanna do everything.”

Rating: 4 out of 5

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