Opening in theaters this month is Love, Antosha, a documentary that spans the life, career and creativity of actor Anton Yelchin (Star Trek, Alpha Dog, Like Crazy), directed by Garret Price.
Anton passed away following a devastating accident at his home in June of 2016 at the age of 27. In his all too brief career, he appeared in 69 film and television projects.
The day the trailer for Love, Antosha was released, I found myself reaching for my box of Kleenex less than a minute in. I had been anticipating this documentary since it had been announced that it would be a part of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, however I didn’t entirely expect the emotional response from myself that the trailer managed to elicit.
I attended a screening of Love, Antosha this past July during the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival at the Castro Theatre. The legendary venue was a more than fitting location to watch a documentary about a young actor who was so passionate about his craft.
Narrated by his Dying of the Light co-star Nicolas Cage, the film is a moving portrait, one
created out of great care by Price, that let Anton play an active role in telling his story partly through interviews, home movies, and experimental films the actor created with his friends. Audiences are also treated to glimpses of his creative process, including scripts covered in notes, self-taped character research, and journal entries that served as both a therapeutic release and moments of self-reflection.
But nothing would pull on the heartstrings more than the moments where his parents, Viktor and Irina Yelchin, spoke of him with such pride. The former figure skating duo emigrated from the Soviet Union to the United States with Anton in tow when he was just a baby.
The familial bond between the Yelchins is one of openness, strength and support. Irina shares in the film about a time where she was sick and Anton would write her a letter every day and would sign it “Love, Antosha.” After she returned to full health, both Irina and Viktor continued to receive regular notes and emails from Anton over the years.
Audiences also hear from his contemporaries, including Jennifer Lawrence (The Beaver, Like Crazy), Chris Pine (Star Trek), Kristen Stewart (Fierce People), J.J. Abrams (Star Trek), Ben Foster (Alpha Dog), Anthony Hopkins (Hearts in Atlantis), Willem Dafoe (Odd Thomas), Zoe Saldana (Star Trek), and Jodie Foster (The Beaver), who opened up about their time working with him on various projects.
A lighter anecdotal moment came from Pine, who shared that during the filming of one of the Star Trek films, he fell asleep on Anton while members of the cast were on a boat. A photo of this moment is shown as Pine expresses his appreciation for his co-star’s patience as he allowed him to get about an hour of shut-eye.
For an actor that at times seemed unsure of his career trajectory, there’s solace in hearing his fellow actors look back on their time with Anton with such fondness, respect and gratitude.
As a fan of Anton’s film work, the documentary provided a well-rounded look at the actor, delving into his other creative loves in addition to film, like music and photography. While his life was cut short, he seemed determined to make the most out of every moment he had.
Following Anton’s death in 2016, I spent time revisiting his filmography, which wound up being a great source of comfort. After seeing Love, Antosha, I found myself back in front of my TV watching my favorite Anton films.
The following are five movies that have remained standout performances in my eyes and are most certainly worthy of a watch/rewatch:
Directed by Nick Cassavettes, 2006’s Alpha Dog was my introduction to Anton. He plays 15-year-old Zach Mazursky, who is kidnapped by Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch), a drug dealer feuding with his older brother Jake (Ben Foster). Believing that his brother will settle things up Johnny, Zach winds up unexpectedly having the time of his life “hanging out” with his captors. It was a scene towards the end of the film where Zach realizes he might not make it home that had me reaching for the DVD case wondering just who this young actor was, as the character’s anguish is both palpable and heartbreaking.
Anton stars opposite Felicity Jones in Love, Antosha producer Drake Doremus’ 2011 film, Like Crazy. Their characters Jacob and Anna, a British exchange student, meet at college in Los Angeles, where they hit it off and wind up falling head over heels for one another. After overstaying her student visa, Anna is denied re-entry into the United States after returning home to London for a brief visit and is deported back to the UK. It’s a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, but the lead actors really put on a clinic as most of their dialogue is improv.
Odd Thomas (based on the Dean R. Koontz novel) is a film I watched for the first time after Anton had passed and it quickly became one of my favorites. An entertaining cross between horror, sci-fi, and rom-com, Anton plays the title character Odd Thomas who works as a cook in a diner and also has a paranormal connection with the dead (or soon-to-be). Both quirky and charming, it’s one of the many gems to be found in the actor’s filmography.
5 to 7
As a writer, I have a soft spot for movies about writers. Set in New York, Anton plays opposite Bérénice Marlohe as Brian Bloom, an aspiring novelist, who crosses paths Arielle Pierpont, the wife of a French diplomat. After developing a mutual liking for one another, Arielle has a unique proposal for the young writer, in the form of an arrangement that takes place in between the hours of 5 to 7. Directed by Victor Levin, the film is an intriguing look at an “unconventional” sort of relationship.
Directed by Cory Finley, Thoroughbreds is a darkly comedic tale of two recently reunited friends in suburban Connecticut, Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Amanda (Olivia Cooke), that find themselves conspiring to murder Lily’s stepfather. In one of his final roles, Anton plays Tim, a local drug dealer with big aspirations, who is sought out by the two teens to assist with their murder plot. The dialogue between the two leads is sharp throughout the film, but not to be overlooked is the initial exchange between Lily and Tim.
For more on Love, Antosha, visit antonyelchindoc.com.