An absolute one of a kind … with Anton, they broke the mold.Frank Langella, House of D
When one hears the name Anton Yelchin, they might think about Star Trek, Charlie Bartlett, or Alpha Dog. In sitting down to watch this documentary, I truly didn’t know what I was in for. This extraordinary documentary not only highlighted the genius of Anton’s every growing thirst to better his work but also the beautiful and sometimes dark side of that genius that we have never seen before.
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His parents emigrated
A Google search can tell you his parents emigrated here for a better life when he was only six months old. They sold all their possessions and moved to America with only $6,000, escaping the violence and poverty in their homeland. What Google can’t tell you, or show you as this film has, is this immense love Anton and his parents had for one another. He was always writing cards and songs for his mom.
Anton immersed himself in the arts
They spent everyday encouraging him to be everything he wanted to be. He learned to play guitar. His father, Frank pointed out that he was “always learning.” He immersed himself in film and started tuning his craft before most of us even know what we want to do with our lives. And most of that time, he didn’t even know he was living with a terminal illness. For his parents loved him so much, they didn’t want him to ever feel limited by anything.
“Acting is his best medicine”
Knowing he would have a shorter life expectancy, his mother and father wanted him to live, truly live, uninhabited and that’s what he did. They believed that “acting is his best medicine” because through all the auditions and the acting, he never got sick on set. He looked as any other boy his age, full of life. When he no longer wanted to do commercials, film being his first love, his mother started finding opportunities in cinema for him. It seemed everyone that came across him even as such a young actor could see he had more professionalism and love for the art than many seasoned actors. He pushed the mental, physical, emotional bounds of any normal even relatively healthy person to accomplish 69 film and TV credits in just 27 years of life. It wasn’t until later in life that Anton found out about his illness.
The Diagnosis That Could Have Changed Everything
After pushing himself too hard with work in 2007, Anton ended up in the hospital. His parents along with the help of doctors had to break the news to him. Anton was living with cystic fibrosis. The moment his parents had been dreading for years had come. He now knew of his diagnosed limitations. But the strength and unbreakable spirit that his parents had nurtured for years refused to give up. He refused to let it define him.
So, instead, he chose to stay quiet about it. So much so, that out of the 60+ interviews conducted for the documentary, not a single person knew of Anton’s daily struggles. He never wanted anyone to feel sorry for him. He didn’t want to be treated differently. Everything he earned, he earned on merit, not pity and I imagine there was some fear that it could change. He worried that because of his condition he might not be able to find work. So he continued to get treatments in secret, only a handful of people knowing, and those few people created a powerful support system for Anton not only fight through each day dealing with this illness but also to live his days to their fullest.
The Impact He Left On The World
Some of the wonderful things spoken about Anton throughout the film brought me to tears. It really showed how much of a loss it was to lose such a genuine true talent and soul. Frank Langella, an actor from House of D, said that Anton is “an absolute one of a kind … with Anton they broke the mold.” William Defoe called him “practical and pragmatic,” Martin Landau described him as “an old soul.” His dear friend and co-star from Star Trek spoke more on the darker side of Anton’s struggles.
When talking about Anton’s photography stage, Chris Pine said that with Anton “life is art, art is life” and really pointed out his genius not only in his acting but every artistic medium he seemed to touch. I think the professional relationship interview that got me the most was when J.J. Abrams openly admits that Anton “kind of challenged us to be as good as he was” … a theme that kept recurring in almost every personal interview picked for the film. He had something that the world so rarely sees. Which is why it was so very tragic that we only got a short time with him.
From learning about Anton’s early childhood to his tragic and unfair passing, this film not only inspires one to be better every day but also emphasizes the fact that life is indeed too short. Though his family, a few select friends, and himself knew that he had a short life expectancy, they watched him live his life as fully as possible. His strength, courage, and unstoppable force are obviously so very missed by everyone that had the privilege of knowing him but also now, the world through this film. It was insightful. It was beautiful. It was heartbreaking. I cannot wait to watch it again.
Thank you for everyone involved with this project. Thank you to Anton’s parents for opening up and talking about something so heartbreaking yet also beautiful. Thank you Garret Price for creating something that will speak to generations to come about the power of knowledge, strength, and never giving up.
Featured image credit: Lurker Productions