Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Love, Antosha Is A Poignant Reminder of the Finite Nature of Life

We all get a finite amount of time on this Earth. It's not something we like to think about (I'm very much including myself in that "we"), but it's the truth. Realizing that, one begins to wonder how we'll use whatever amount of days on this Earth. Will we hold grudges? Will we look out for ourselves? What careers will we dedicate ourselves to? The mind reels at all the questions pouring out from contemplating our own mortality, perhaps that's why we prefer to push the idea that we have a limited amount of life to live to the back of our minds. But there's no getting around such an idea while watching the documentary Love, Antosha, which chronicles the life of the late great actor Anton Yelchin.

Even prior to his tragic demise in June 2016 at the hands of a faulty automobile, death was a concept on the mind of Anton Yelchin due to him being diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at a young age as well as how his parents had risked their own lives in escaping Soviet Russia in the 1980s to start a life for themselves in America. The fragility of life and its finite nature was always present in Yelchin's life and made him decide to channel his already fervent passion for art into a pursuit into all kinds of different artistic ambitions. Of course, he was primarily an actor, but Yelchin also delved into playing in a band, engaged in avant-garde photography and, in the final months of his life, prepared to make his feature film directorial debut.

Director Garret Price explores these various avenues of creative exploration alongside a chronological look into the life of Anton Yelchin that begins with a young boy and a video camera. From such humble beginnings comes an impressive body of work that saw Yelchin hitting the ground running by impressing the likes of Anthony Hopkins, David Duchovny and Frank Langella with his talent as an actor. Interviews with these figures and so many other noteworthy talents comprise the majority of Love, Antosha and prove to be equal parts poignant and illuminating. Interviews with the likes of Zachary Quinto and director Drake Doremus paint a picture of Yelchin as an affable fellow with a very human side who also had a seemingly limitless amount of artistic talents, as seen by Chris Pine recounting how shocked he was to abruptly discover Yelchin was gifted with a guitar.

In covering all the artistic passions of Yelchin as well as the numerous interview segments with artists who worked with him, Love, Antosha does occasionally take on a scattered quality. However, such an imperfection does feel oddly appropriate for a story about Anton Yelchin, an artist whose interests spanned all-over-the-map. Why shouldn't a documentary about such a figure have a similar quality? Plus, being so all-over-the-place allows Love, Antosha to take in perspectives on its lead subject from a wide variety of individuals, from close personal friends of Anton Yelchin to iconic filmmakers like Joe Dante who directed Yelchin in a singular small indie film.

Love, Antosha going for people who have interesting tales to tell about Yelchin rather than squarely focusing on the most famous faces is one of its best traits with another one of its greatest facets emerging in the various interview sequences with Yelchin's parents. Screentime dedicated to these two only gets more and more moving as the film goes on and a scene of Yelchin's mother looking over a treasure trove of notes Yelchin wrote to her. In this sequence, there's an emotional vulnerability that marks so much of this moving motion picture and is also found in the most surprisingly moving sequences of Love, Antosha dedicated to interviewing segments with Jennifer Lawrence, who acted opposite Yelchin in Jodie Foster's The Beaver.

Lawrence would likely be the first to admit she's not the performer one would associate with Anton Yelchin, The Beaver (a movie I personally like) was neither a box office hit nor one of Yelchin's most acclaimed features. But her stories prove to be an essential part of the project and they also prove to be extremely moving given how the vulnerability seen here plays opposite Lawrence's endearing nonchalant nature that comes through in her typical press interviews.  Seeing a person like Jennifer Lawrence that we're so accustomed to taking everything in entertaining stride wipe away tears in Love, Antosha recounting Yelchin expressing genuine excitement over the impending arrival of his mother is such an unexpected and moving sight.

Jennifer Lawrence actually briefly returns in a small segment in the home stretch of Love, Antosha dedicated to the passing of Yelchin where it's clear that talking about this guy being gone still proves to be difficult for her. I can certainly relate to that. The passing of Yelchin is one that hit me profoundly, it still doesn't feel real to me, I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like to process his passing when you know him as intimately as the people chronicled in Love, Antosha. Given how much of a fan I am of his work, perhaps I was always an easy target to be won over by Love, Antosha, but the way this documentary dived into Anton Yelchin's life, passion and perspective in such intimate ways that impressed me well beyond my own personal attachment to Yelchin himself. It's the kind of film that reminds me of how finite our time on Earth is. We need to make the most of it. We need to create the art we want to make. We need to help others, even in the smallest of ways. We need to live like the life shown so beautifully throughout Love, Antosha.

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