By LEE BROWN
On June 19th, 2016, actor Anton Yelchin passed away as the result of a freak accident. The cause was 'blunt traumatic asphyxia,' the result of a malfunction with his Fiat Chrysler, which rolled down Anton's driveway and pinned the actor against his fence. He was killed by his injuries. At the time of his passing, he was only 27 years of age. When news broke out in the news media, hearts were broken, not only of those of his friends and family but by his huge fanbase too. He, like many other much-loved actors over the years, Heath Ledger and River Phoenix among them, had been taken too soon.
Love, Antosha, a documentary titled with the send-0ff Anton gave to his own mother through personal letters and cards, is an affectionate tribute to this young man, and reminds us (as if we ever needed reminding anyway), that we have lost an incredible talent and a beautiful human being.
Remembering Anton Yelchin
Anton Yelchin was born on March 11, 1989, in Leningrad, the son of Irina and Viktor Yelchin. Nicknamed 'Antosha,' he was much loved by his parents, and to give him a better chance in life, away from the repressive Russian regime, they moved to Los Angeles before he was one year old.
As witnessed through the home movies showcased in the documentary, Anton started to perform at an early age. Acting was clearly in his blood, and after taking classes in the craft, he made his acting debut in television series ER at the age of 10. Several smaller roles followed, and then, at the age of 11, he landed his breakout role with Anthony Hopkins and Hope Davies in the Stephen King adaptation Hearts in Atlantis.
More television roles followed until Anton found greater success as a young teenager on the indie scene, in films such as House of D and Fierce People. His star power also shone brightly in more widely seen films, with the likes of Charlie Bartlett, Terminator: Salvation, and Odd Thomas among them, and after critical acclaim for his work, his place in Hollywood was secured.
Many people know Anton best for his role as Anton Chekov in the Star Trek reboot and its sequels, though his later career was littered with a number of other hits, including Green Room and Thoroughbreds, the latter being released after his death.
By the time of his death at the age of 27, he had completed over 69 film and television projects.
The Documentary That Will Break Your Heart
Love, Antosha, the affectionate and heartbreaking documentary made to celebrate Anton's life, features interviews with all of the people who knew Anton best.
We get to hear from his parents, who regale us with stories about Anton's kind nature, his goofy sense of humor, and his first forays into filmmaking with the shorts he made himself with the family camcorder. Some of these early films are shown within the documentary, and we, the audience, see what his parents saw, a star in the making.
We also hear from Anton's friends, with joyful recollections of childhood hijinks, teenage passions, and journies together in adulthood. Their remembrances of Anton are beautifully told, and they speak of him with true love and affection. Anton was somebody who showed real kindness to the people he was friends with, so it's little wonder that, on his passing, a great sense of loss was left in the people he left behind.
And we hear from the many people Anton worked with, each one proclaiming truths about the young actor's incredible talents, his dedication to filmmaking, and the inner beauty that shone through in his personality. As with the tales told by his friends and family, there is a great deal of sadness underpinning their words as they talk with fondness about him. We hear from such luminaries as Anthony Hopkins, JJ Abrams, and Martin Landau, with tales of Anton's advanced for his age acting ability. Star Trek co-star John Cho discusses Anton's loveably mischievous sense of humor. And they all talk about a talent that was destined for even bigger and greater things, if only he hadn't been taken away so soon.
When speaking about his death, it is perhaps Simon Pegg who says it best of all. Anton's death, he said, was 'cataclysmically unfair.' You can probably identify with this sentiment. It is especially unfair that it happened when it did, as Anton was in the process of starting what would be his directorial debut, Travis, a film named after the lead character in one of the films that inspired Anton's love for cinema, Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver.
Beyond Anton's professional life, the documentary also sheds light on his personal life too. We hear about his music, his love for capturing the dark side of LA with his photography, and his commitment to the people he loved and cared for.
We also hear about his long-term battle with Cystic Fibrosis, a condition that, if Anton hadn't died so soon anyway, would have taken his life at a too-early stage. It is a testament to Anton's character and his commitment to the craft of filmmaking that he never let CF get in the way. He even kept his condition a secret from most of the people he worked with, as he didn't want it to get in the way of the work he was sharing with others.
The documentary does a wonderful job of capturing all facets of Anton's life, and it's just a shame that the climax to the film had already been written. We see the tears of the people who loved him, and when watching, we also share those tears as the film's final chapter closes.
Anton Yelchin: A Life Worth Remembering
Thanks to the amazing performances captured on screen, we will never get to forget the incredible talents of Anton Yelchin. And thanks to Love, Antosha, the documentary that will also stand the test of time, we will never forget about those other aspects of his life; his deep love for his family and friends, his passionate grasp on life and all that it could give him, and his marvelous sense of humor that he retained, despite his personal battles in life.
In the words of one of Anton's close friends when discussing Anton's untimely death.
"It was a very Anton-ish way to go. He would just turn up in places, and then you would turn around, and he would be gone."
And that is so true of his relationship with us, the viewer at home, always happy to see him appear on the screen, be it in a big-budget blockbuster or a low-budget indie. He was with us for such a short time, just a brief moment within the long tapestry of lives that many of us experience, but despite the unexpected pleasures he brought us, he is now gone. He was here but now he is no more, although we can always hit the rewind button if ever we need to catch sight of him again.
Anton will be missed, but in the vein of the love letters that he sent him mom, signing each one off with the words 'love, Anatosha,' the documentary of the same name will forever remain a fitting love letter to the man who brought friends, family, and fans alike, a lifetime of memories that will never be forgotten.