REVIEW: Love, Antosha [2019]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★


Rating: R | Runtime: 92 minutes | Release Date: August 2nd, 2019 (USA)
Studio: Giant Pictures
Director(s): Garret Price

“I never eat the boogers”

In an attempt to comfort after the death of their son, Viktor Yelchin suggested to his wife Irina Korina that they should just pretend he’s off on a very long movie shoot. That’s what Anton Yelchin often did anyway with sixty-plus film and television credits to his name by the age of twenty-seven, but things aren’t so simple when it comes to someone as caring as their child. Because even when he was thousands of miles away, Anton would inevitably call, email, or write his mother religiously. So if Irina were to trick her brain into believing her boy was hard at work, the lack of correspondence would shatter that illusion almost instantly. Even when he was physically absent from home, he was never truly gone.

He started this tradition by writing little notes of appreciation back when he was still a kid devoid of Hollywood celebrity aspirations. Many, if not all, were kept by his parents and they’ve allowed them to be captured on-camera to show that each was signed by the same words Garret Price eventually chose as his biographical documentary’s title: Love, Antosha. It’s a fitting bit of symmetry too since the film proves less interested in us learning about Anton’s life than about experiencing his bottomless wealth of love, excitement, and creativity. In many respects this therefore becomes a final letter for his friends and family to remember him by—a testament to the man he became as a result of knowing each and every one of them. Familiarly signed.

The desired takeaway of putting his life on the big screen in this way is to provide inspiration for those who suffer from cystic fibrosis—which he also did in secret. That’s the mystery alluded to in the trailer and it’s a significant revelation considering how active and electric Yelchin was to be able to work as often as he did while somehow finding time to play music, practice photography, and read books/watch movies with a voracious appetite. But it isn’t some grand answer to why he passed away. It doesn’t explain away the fluke accident that was his Jeep rolling down his driveway to pin him against his gate. Anton refused to let cystic fibrosis rule him in life and it won’t rule him in death either.

So treat Price’s film as a celebration because that’s its intent. Treat it as proof that dreams can be achieved no matter how slim the odds. Managing Anton’s disease isn’t all about money and access to medical care either considering what his parents (Soviet figure skaters) gave up to come to America and the opportunities they gave him before those giant studio paychecks arrived many years later. You can agree or disagree with their decision to shield him from the stigma of what cystic fibrosis held for his future until he was seventeen, but don’t deny the care that went into teaching him how to combat the symptoms under false pretenses anyway. They worked tirelessly to give Yelchin a chance to do whatever his heart desired.

We don’t have to watch many home videos before understanding that acting would take hold the strongest. He’s hamming it up whenever the camera is on him either by his own hand or someone else’s. And there’s a perpetual smile on his face throughout—until his young mind is blown by the potential of cinema as an art form beyond the action genre. The shift from exuberant glee to severe drama that apparently coincided with Anton’s exposure to Martin Scorsese (and especially Taxi Driver) is unmistakable and later augmented by his introspective notes about the heavy themes and artistic intent behind each scene. Is it weird that the latter (diaries too) are read aloud by Nicolas Cage? Yes, to the point of distraction. The content, however, is wonderful.

Why? Because the extensive amount of material supplied allows Price to really put a face to who exactly his subject was and why his loss is so profound. You have interviewees spanning contemporaries (Kristen Stewart and John Cho), elder statesmen (Martin Landau, Jodie Foster, and Joe Dante), and the “regular” people he called best friends that were never forgotten no matter how much money or fame was accrued. We learn how Yelchin was the same person to each and every one of them whether their bond spanned years or minutes. We understand the passion for life that drove him and the specter of death that haunted every single step. And by not letting a single second be wasted, he ultimately inspired those who didn’t know they needed inspiration.

While this guarantees Love, Antosha can’t be anything but a love-fest, don’t think it isn’t earned. By all accounts nobody on Earth has a bad thing to say about who Anton Yelchin was on-set or off it. Price splices a bevy of archival footage, clips, photography, and new interviews together to remind us of this young man’s talent as well as his humanity. The latter fed the former to make it so we believed his performances no matter the projects’ own worth and the former fueled the latter to ensure those who knew him best were never disappointed by what this sweet kid became. So while it’s easy to watch and lament about what will now never be, enjoy it instead as a reason to appreciate what was.

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