Love, Antosha (★★★★)

Rated R, 92 minutes.

Opens Friday at Landmark Magnolia Theatre in Dallas.

Anton Yelchin’s death affected me more than any celebrity has before. We are around the same age and he was taken from us when he had so much more to offer the world. He was weeks away from directing his first film, which he also wrote. And if you followed his work from 2001’s Hearts in Atlantis to 2011’s Like Crazy, to his last starring films Star Trek Beyond and Porto, you would know that his creative palette was destined to make big stokes.

After watching Garret Price’s tender documentary, Love, Antosha, about Yelchin and his passion for plugging into more creative outlets, you’d easily say he was a tremendous loss. It helps that Price, mostly known for his editing work for such works as The Director and the Jedi (a doc about the making of Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and the television series Nashville, brings an outsider’s perspective to the story and finds unique ways to stitch Yelchin’s story together. It’s not a glorified DVD extra that features actors, friends, and family merely talking about how great he was as a talent and a person. The film also delves into his complexities, health issues and the myriad of ways he exercised his creativity, one of which was taking sometimes graphic photos of people doing the most obscure things in the nude.

Love, Antosha — which gets its title from the way the actor concluded all his letters and emails to his loving mother — has a lot in common with the 2015 Academy Award-winning documentary Amy, about late singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse. Both films use a lot of video diaries and home footage to make the subject feel present throughout. It’s as if they are telling the story, and the talking-head interviews only guide the narrative to go in different directions. It’s what more documentaries should be like.

It’s honest, inspiring and heartbreaking. By the end of the film, whether you were familiar with his work or not, you feel like you’ve lost a great friend. He was an artist who, as Jodi Foster states in the film (she directed him in the 2011 film The Beaver), had so many ideas that he couldn’t contain them all. He overworked himself and never tried to shortchange the level of authenticity he brought to his performances.

What really makes Love, Antosha soar is the relationship he had with his parents. The love between them could move mountains, and it’s beautiful.

PRESTON BARTA is a member of the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association. Read his work here, on FreshFiction.tv and on RottenTomatoes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PrestonBarta.

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