Actor Anton Yelchin was highly respected by both his peers and fans prior to his accidental death in 2016. Though he died at the young age of 27, Yelchin started his career at the age of 11 and was able to build a filmography that would be the envy of most actors. But as the documentary Love, Antosha shows, there was much more to Yelchin’s life than just his time on screen.
The film, directed by Garret Price, takes a cradle-to-grave approach to looking at Yelchin's impact on those around him, something that’s even more effective given the relatively brief time he had in this world. Growing up in California as the son of Russian figure skaters, Yelchin is shown to be someone who was preternaturally gifted, but also highly empathetic.
This compassion reveals itself in the multitude of notes he gave to his mother as a child, each signed “Love, Antosha,” as well as the diversity of projects he chose as he grew up. Nearly everyone interviewed for the film talks about Yelchin’s curiosity and generosity of spirit, traits that become all the more special when you understand the struggles he faced.
Unbeknownst to anyone but his family and childhood friends, Yelchin was afflicted with Cystic Fibrosis, a disease which causes thick mucus to build in the lungs and must be treated with daily breathing treatments. Those with CF have a life expectancy of 37 years, perhaps a reason why Yelchin approached life with a zeal that few others could match.
Using archival interviews with Yelchin and new interviews with people like Chris Pine, J.J. Abrams, Kristen Stewart, Jodie Foster, Jennifer Lawrence, and many others, Price and his team paint a portrait of Yelchin as both the consummate professional and someone who was always searching for more meaning. He would pursue music, photography, and other artistic pursuits to try to satisfy his drive, exploring areas that would often make others uncomfortable.
While it often feels like a hagiography, the film is highly effective in demonstrating the innate decency of Yelchin, something that comes through in almost every celebrity's interview. While you wouldn’t expect any of them to sully a dead person’s memory, the emotion each of them shows indicates that his reputation will live on for years to come.
Love, Antosha is a heartbreaking and heart-lifting documentary that makes the case that Yelchin knew better than most how to create a connection in an increasingly disconnected world.