“LOVE, ANTOSHA”: Renaissance kid

My rating: B+ (Opens Sept. 27 at the Screenland Tapcade)

93 minutes | No MPAA rating

Published September 26, 2019 by Robert W. Butler at Butler’s Cinema Scene

I knew who Anton Yeltsin was, of course.  I’d seen the young actor as Chekhov in J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” reboots, and in a couple of other movies like Jodie Foster’s “The Beaver.”

And of course I knew he died in 2017 at age 27 in a freak accident, pinned against a metal gate by his rolling automobile.

None of which prepared me for the gut punch that is “Love, Antosha,” a love letter to the late actor signed by his parents, his boyhood friends, and his heavy-hitting acting colleagues.

It seems nobody who knew Yeltsin had anything but love for him. And that emotion comes roiling off the screen.

Garret Price’s documentary opens with home movies from Yeltsin’s childhood. What we see is an impossibly handsome kid with a big performer’s personality that fills the room.

We also get a bit of back story about his parents,  competitive Soviet ice dancers who emigrated to the U.S.A. to get away from growing anti-Semitism in the new Russian Republic.

Here’s something I did not know:  While a teen Anton was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, the devastating lung condition (the average life expectancy of a sufferer is 37 years). He was so full of energy, so good at masking his symptoms and plowing ahead, that many of his show biz colleagues were unaware that he had gone through life essentially under a death sentence.

But the knowledge of his mortality produced in young Anton a desire to excel in dozens of artistic endeavors.

He was an actor, sure…but I didn’t realize that in just 17 years as a professional he appeared in 40 feature films, dozens of episodic TV shows, and a handful of shorts. The guy almost never turn down an opportunity to work.

He taught himself to play guitar and had his own rock band.

And his acting colleagues were stunned when young Anton (only 17 when he made his first “Star Trek” appearance) would return from a weekend break with dozens of photos of denizens of a big city’s dark side. These weren’t exploitative snaps meant to feed an adolescent’s sexual fantasies…they were astoundingly perceptive,  informative and humanistic studies of people living on the edge. The kid was like the Weegee of the erotic underworld.

The film features dozens of talking-head encounters with friends, family and co-workers.  There are, of course, Yeltsin’s “Trek” colleagues (John Cho, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, J.J. Abrams), but also co-stars from other projects (Jennifer Lawrence, Frank Langella, Kristin Stewart, Martin Landau, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ben Foster, Willem Dafoe) and directors (Jodie Foster, Joe Dante) for whom he worked.

Nicholas Cage reads entries from Anton’s journals and correspondence.

One leaves “Love, Antosha” with both a profound sense of loss and boundless admiration for a young man determined to cram as much life as possible into however many years he was granted.

| Robert W. Butler

Read the original review and more reviews at Butler’s Cinema Scene

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Robert W. Butler for 41 years reviewed films for the Kansas City Star. In May 2011 he was downsized.

He couldn’t take the hint.

OKAY, so here’s the deal. I write mostly about movies. One good thing about no longer writing for the paper is that I’m free to ignore the big dumb Hollywood turkeys that don’t interest me. So don’t expect every blessed release to be written about here. Many films aren’t worth the effort. Besides, at my age it’s not the $8. It’s the two hours.

UPDATE: OCTOBER, 2014: Well, here’s an interesting twist. The Star wants me back as a freelance film reviewer!!! Apparently enough time has passed that they cannot be accused of firing me so that they can rehire me at a fraction of my original pay (I gather the federal government frowns upon that practice.) So from now on I will probably be reviewing a movie a week for the newspaper.