Of the late Anton Yelchin, co-star Jon Voight (2015’s Court of Conscience) says, “You’re always grateful when you see one of these talents. They’re very rare.” It’s one of the more poignant moments in Love, Antosha, the documentary of Yelchin’s all-too-brief life as one of the more gifted and admired actors of his generation, and it cuts to the heart of why the film is so powerful and moving.
Directed by Garret Price at the suggestion of Yelchin’s Like Crazy director Drake Doremus, Love, Antosha introduces the world to the relatively unknown actor (I’d wager the vast majority of folks know Yelchin, if at all, from his role as Chekov in the recent JJ Abrams-helmed Star Trek series) who died tragically in a freak accident in the summer of 2016 at the age of 27. As the film unfolds, it quickly becomes clear that even his close friends and colleagues never saw the full picture of Yelchin’s life, making the film not only a fitting tribute to the actor but also a heartbreaking revelation.
The son of Russian figure skaters, Yelchin arrived in Los Angeles with his emigrating parents when he was less than a year old. His exuberance and also his love of movies set him on the path early, leading to his first role at age 10, a guest spot on ER, before he ventured into films. All the while, we learn, Yelchin was living with cystic fibrosis, a diagnosis that only became known outside his family and his healthcare team following his death.
Price, with the full blessing of Anton’s parents Viktor and Korina Yelchin, unfolds Love, Antosha as a touching tribute to the actor, interspersing dozens of Anton’s home videos with testimonials and remembrances from his former co-stars, including Willem Dafoe, Jodie Foster, Jennifer Lawrence, and Kristen Stewart. Among the most poignant are the heartfelt anecdotes from his Star Trek colleagues, including Simon Pegg, Zachary Quinto, and the visibly still-shaken Chris Pine, who lovingly remembers his then-teenaged co-star. The only off-key note of the whole documentary is the out-of-place, sporadic voice-over narration by Nicolas Cage.
Beyond the acting, though, there was a whole other side of Yelchin that Love, Antosha quietly shares with us—devoted momma’s boy, avid cinephile, avant-garde photographer, and side-gig rock star. This was indeed a young man who had the world at his feet and the talent to sustain it, making his loss all that more “cataclysmicly unfair”, as Pegg puts it.
Yelchin’s last film, the fantastic Thoroughbreds, which he wrapped just two weeks before his death, hit theaters in March of 2018 and now stands as the curtain call for a brilliant young actor gone far too soon. “I don’t want him to ever be forgotten,” remembers the late Martin Landau. Thanks to the beautiful Love, Antosha, he never will.