3 Jun 2020

Love, Antosha

From At The Movies, 7:31 pm on 3 June 2020

Dan Slevin reviews a documentary about the young American actor Anton Yelchin who died suddenly in 2016.

Dan Slevin: Love Antosha is a documentary about a movie star. So far so blah, what do the lives of film actors have to tell us about anything these days?

Well, this is a bit different.

Anton Yelchin was a child star in the early 200s who transitioned successfully into full-blown adult movie stardom after taking on the role of Chekov in the rebooted Star Trek franchise in 2009.

He was an exceptionally hard worker as his very long list of credits on IMDb will testify - franchise films, indie films, TV, arthouse, shorts for mates, cartoon voice work, he seemed to be on a mission to do as much as he could in as short a space of time as possible and in Love Antosha we find out why.

But we also remember how his life and career were cut short in 2016 in the most random way possible - trapped between his Jeep Grand Cherokee truck and the gates of his house when the car he thought was in Park turned out to be still in Drive.

It was as horrifying as it was unexpected and I must admit that at the time I heard about it, it was really only a weird footnote to a career I had only seen about one-third of.

Anton Yelchin was born in Leningrad to parents who were champion Soviet ice skaters.

They got out of Russia as refugees when he was a baby and they settled in Los Angeles. Anton, the only child, was creative and - if all the home video footage is anything to go by - irrepressible and he eventually went to acting lessons and then on to auditioning for commercials.

His talent for being present - as well as his tremendous work ethic - was soon noticed by Hollywood and he started picking up roles in films starring real heavyweights like Anthony Hopkins and Albert Finney - and holding his own in the process.

What he didn't know though - because his parents chose to keep it from him until adulthood - was that he had cystic fibrosis, an incurable disease that mostly affects the lungs. His prognosis was not good, it generally isn't for sufferers, but he seems to have had a lust for life and work even before he was told why he was coughing so much at the age of 17.

The film is full of reminiscences from some seriously high-calibre people, many of whom are more candid and relaxed talking about their friend than I've seen in films on other topics.

Kristen Stewart, for example, talks about how Yelchin broke her heart when she was 14 and how he then came and apologised a few years later once his own heart had been broken and he knew what it was like.

It's honest, too, about so many aspects of his life and it's suffused with the love of (and for) his parents. Rarely when you watch a biography like this do you really feel like you know somebody better at the end of it but in Love Yentosha, you actually do.

What I was left with was that sobering realisation that even when you think you know how long you have left, you really, really don't.

LOVE, ANTOSHA is rated R16 for some adult themes and is streaming now on Docplay.com

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