Anton Yelchin’s sudden death in 2016, on paper a freak accident and in practice the consequence of manufacturing negligence, cut short a life and career with seemingly no ceiling and unflagging momentum. Glance at his post-2010 filmography. Yelchin left no gaps in his schedule this decade, filling year after year with anywhere between 5 and 9 different projects ranging from movies to TV shows to videogames to shorts, and that’s not even touching on his dabblings in the photography world. Here’s a man who simply could not, would not, stop, until fate raised a ghastly finger and stole him from the world too long before what should have been his time.
In Love, Antosha, filmmaker Garret Price pays sincere tribute to Yelchin’s heart and achievements with the help of the actor’s many, many, many peers, pals, and loved ones as well as Yelchin himself: His writings, housed in his private journals, comprise the movie’s fabric, along with snippets of his original music, his photography, and home videos furnished by his mother and father, erstwhile star pair figure skaters Irina Korina and Viktor Yelchin. Mom and dad fled persecution, religious and political, in their native Soviet Union in 1989, Anton’s birth year; to their great fortune, their son turned out to be the grateful type, and per the film, he seized the day every day from his youth all the way to his adulthood, showing unfailing appreciation for his parents and the sacrifices they made for him throughout. If the film proves anything, it’s that no one in the world loved their mother and father more than Yelchin loved his.
Price and his interviewees—Star Trek co-stars Chris Pine, John Cho and Sofia Boutella, Jennifer Lawrence, director Drake Doremus, Martin Landau, Willem Dafoe, Kristen Stewart, and countless others appearing to give their recollections and exercise their bereavement at the same time—feel similar fondness for Yelchin: Collectively, they teach the audience a lesson in grief, one of the reigning sub-themes in 2019’s movies. Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir, Ari Aster’s Midsommar and Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale, among others, each deal with the act of grieving on their own terms, whether based upon real events or spun from whole cloth. Love, Antosha gives viewers the real thing, absent artifice. At no moment is reason given to question the assembled mourners’ earnestness. This is about as real as big-screen grief gets.
The quality of grieving strikes so true that even audiences less acquainted with Yelchin’s work and distant from his personality may feel moved to tears generally shed for family and friends instead of strangers. Price wisely uses Yelchin’s own voice, literally as well as artistically, to tell his story; the talking heads just buttress the pseudo-autobiography. If there’s an innate risk to movies like this, it’s the blurry tipping point between biography and hagiography, where honesty is rejected to serve the subjects’ image and legacy. But Yelchin is almost undoubtedly deserving of the praise songs sung in his honor. It’s hard to believe in heroes today. Ever-shrinking privacy barriers give the public opportunities to see their favorite celebrities cast in too-revealing light, frequently showing them as imperfect at best and monstrous at worst. Any such light shone on Yelchin would show him precisely as seen here: kind, compassionate, gregarious, thoughtful, bright verging on brilliant. The kid’s damn near a saint. Hagiography only makes sense.
Love, Antosha lays Yelchin’s immense spirit bare, but the film remains wanting for depth. Make no mistake: This is the definitive Encyclopedia of Anton Yelchin, a tome to chronicle the best of him. But there’s so much about him to learn, and so much breezed over to fit into a 90-minute running time, that Price’s study feels somewhat diffuse. By the time the film ends, he’s created a fine portrait of Yelchin, a familiar, empathetic homage to a talent gone much too soon. He’s also left room for discovery, though lamenting Love, Antosha’s brevity in light of its tenderness is, perhaps, a bad look. To see the movie is to know Yelchin, and to know him suffices.
Director: Garret Price
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Kristen Stewart, Chris Pine, Nicolas Cage, John Cho, Sofia Boutella, Willem Dafoe, Drake Doremus, Martin Landau, Joe Dante, Jennifer Lawrence
Release Date: August 2, 2019 (NY/LA); August 23, 2019 (Boston)
Boston-based culture writer Andy Crump has been writing about film and television online since 2009 (and music since 2018). You can follow him on Twitter and find his collected writing at his personal blog. He is composed of roughly 65% craft beer.