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Friday, August 30, 2019

QUICKTAKE: Love, Antosha

The Buzz: Love, Antosha is the sign-off actor Anton Yelchin used as a child and continued to use as an adult when writing loving letters to his mother. Yelchin died in a tragic accident in 2016 at the young age of 27, at a time when he seemed primed to explore new creative heights as an actor and director. Yelchin was well known for his roles, but there was also a lot about Yelchin the world didn't know, including the fact that he was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis as a child. With the disease resulting in an average lifespan of 37 years, Yelchin lived his life with a voracious appetite for new work and experiences, wringing the depth and meaning out of everything around him. Through a series of interviews with his family, his friends, and colleagues, including the cast of Star Trek, Kristen Stewart, Jennifer Lawrence, Willem Dafoe, and more, the film chronologically explores the chapters of Yelchin's life. Filled in with home video footage, notes from his journal, and scenes from early works, this brisk documentary does a solid job in weaving pieces of Yelchin's life together to form a touching tribute. 

What's Great About This Movie: The most striking thing about Love, Antosha is the love story it tells between a mother and son. Yelchin was born to professional Russian ice skaters who fled from their country to afford their son a better life. Devastated by his diagnosis of CF at a young age (which they withheld from him until he was 17), Yelchin's parents provided unwavering support and commitment in helping him chase his artistic pursuits. For his part, it's clear that Yelchin loved his parents in an earnest, sweet, and doting way that was so rarely openly displayed in men of his age. Yelchin's death left his parents in a state of permanent mourning -  his mother still wears his denim jacket around the house, leaving everything intact in the pockets. And to this day they visit his grave daily. But in spite of that, the film manages to feel more like a celebration than a goodbye. 

What's Not-So-Great About this Movie: I wouldn't consider it a criticism, but perhaps a missed opportunity: for a film so open about Yelchin's life and death, family and friends, I found myself wondering about the filmmaker's relationship to the project and what spring-boarded it. Once I found the answers, I wished it had been included: the story of telling the story. It turns out director Garret Price didn't know Yelchin, but decided to take on the project at the behest of his parents, who were searching for a way to get this documentary made. Yelchin's parents are essentially the reason this documentary exists. According to Price, Anton's father confided after the project was complete: "Every time I see it, I get to spend an hour and a half with my son." 

Final VerdictLove, Antosha does a lot with very little time, which is nothing if not fitting. It's a compelling and thoughtful look at Yelchin's life and it's well-worth a viewing, whether you were familiar with the actor or not. Yelchin lived his life fighting for the opportunity to do and be more than the shattering prognosis he'd lived with since he was a teenager, and even though his life was cut even shorter than he'd possibly feared, he managed to pack more experiences into 27 years than many actors could achieve in a lifetime. 

Love, Antosha is now playing at Landmark Midtown Arts Cinema in Atlanta and select cities around the country. 
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