The loss of Anton Yelchin somehow seems larger as time passes. As you probably know, he died tragically about a year ago, crushed by his own (faulty) car as he checked his mail. The outpouring of grief from his peers was massive at the time, and the more I learn about him, the more I get it. He was a glue guy, an artist, a student of film, a true professional. He made everything easier for those around him. Those sentiments were echoed by Gabe Klinger during the Q&A for Porto at SXSW. Porto is Klinger’s first narrative feature and he freely admitted how much Yelchin helped everyone involved and made the project better, because of Yelchin’s vast knowledge of and experience in making movies.
Technically, Porto is an interesting movie because it was shot on three different types of film: 8mm, 16mm and 35mm. And it IS film, none of this was shot using a digital camera, and the movie feels better for it. There is something about film that digital can’t match yet – a depth, a richness, and a darkness. All those elements are appropriate for Porto, which is a story of intense love and loss, and the film types neatly indicate which time period we’re currently watching.
Porto’s lack of continuity makes a conventional story feel a bit more unconventional, but it also leads to repetition. I wondered during the film whether that repetition was a consequence of Yelchin’s death but it appears to have been an intentional narrative choice, since a little post-movie research shows that filming was complete before he died. The fact that a few details were added, or the scene extended, helped explain the repetition but I still found it to be a distracting choice.
That distraction was a minor one, especially considering the great chemistry between Yelchin and Lucie Lucas that’s on display here. The leads’ performances make Porto worth watching. Yelchin and Lucas have a spark that makes the audience feel the allure and power of this very brief relationship, and that in turn makes us understand why they still reminisce about their short time together. I am sure Lucas deserves as much credit for that as Yelchin, as she’s his equal on screen. Still, it’s hard not to focus on Yelchin since this might be the last time we see him, and I am struck by how much I took his effortless performances for granted until he was gone.