In Memoriam: Anton Yelchin

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When I read that actor Anton Yelchin had died on June 19 after his Jeep Grand Cherokee accidentally rolled down a hill and pinned him to a metal gate, I had trouble processing it. Even typing that sentence now, the words feel weird. Maybe it’s because this was a truly senseless death, one that could have been prevented. Maybe it’s because, at age 27, he literally had his entire life ahead of him.  Maybe it’s because he seemed really down-to-earth, the kind of guy I could be friends with. Whatever the reason, I was sad for the rest of the day.

While I wasn’t a huge fan, when I’d see Yelchin’s name listed in a movie’s credits it always made me more interested in that particular film. He’s probably best-known for his appearances in the Star Trek reboots; the most recent entry opens July 22. In his brief working years, he managed to put together quite the impressive resume. Even when he wasn’t in a lead role, he really stood out. He was great in Only Lovers Left Alive (Devon over at the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped just wrote a great review of that film) and I’ve also heard he was good in Alpha Dog and Charlie Bartlett. As I go back through his filmography, eagerly waiting for my copies of The Driftless Area and Green Room to come in, here are three standouts of Yelchin’s career.

Like Crazy (2011)

This is the film that introduced me to Yelchin, as well as the equally-cute Felicity Jones (be sure to check her out in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story December 16). The two youngsters play long-distance lovers navigating the ups and downs of that kind of relationship. The chemistry between the two is palpable, it practically jumps off the screen and invite you along with their sometimes-tumultuous love affair. If you’ve ever been in a long-distance relationship, the film will resonate with you. The trailer perfectly conveys the tone of the film in just a few brief minutes and never fails to make me tear up. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for Ingrid Michaelson’s cover of “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.”

Odd Thomas (2013)

I feel like I need to preface this with the fact that I’ve never read any of Dean Koontz’ books that this film was based on so I don’t know if it’s a faithful adaptation or not. Yelchin plays a short-order cook who is also clairvoyant. Yeah, it sounds weird, but if you just go along with the premise, the film is really entertaining. Directed by Stephen Sommers, the man behind Brendan Fraser’s The Mummy, Odd Thomas is a fun little romp that I would have loved to see adapted into a television series.  The film even feels like a made-for-TV movie at times, but that’s not a knock. That just adds to the charm.  Plus, it’s got Willem Dafoe and that’s never a bad thing

5 to 7 (2014)

In New York City, Yelchin plays an adorkable aspiring writer who meets a slightly older, beautiful—no, seriously, she’s gorgeous—French woman.  The two quickly fall for each other, but the only problem is she’s married with two children.  Except, that’s not a problem because the woman and her husband have an open relationship; she’s even met her husband’s mistress.  Watching it, it felt kind of like Before Sunrise by way of Woody Allen.  In fact, just a few days before his passing I was thinking about how well Yelchin would do in a Woody Allen film, playing a charmingly awkward stand-in for the neurotic director not unlike Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris or Jesse Eisenberg in To Rome with Love or the upcoming Café Society.  We’ll never get to see that now, but at least we have this film.  I wasn’t expecting to end up crying by the film’s end, but it snuck up on me and punched me right in the heart.  As all great films should.

Rest in peace, Anton.

Have your own retrospective:

Check out the films of Anton Yelchin

Ross works as a Clerk at the Mt. Washington branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. He loves reading books and watching movies and will often ramble about the two here.