Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life is a documentary shot over eight years about one of the world’s most famous gay porn stars. The film covers Agassi’s rise to fame along with his struggles with drug addiction and depression. It sounds like similar stories that tackle fame, but it tells a much more personal story.
Adult films have been the subject of documentaries in the past, but they tend to be an indictment of the business. Even in those films, gay porn is rarely discussed. When it is, it is never in a positive light. To that end, Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life does cover the less savory parts of the industry. But it is not a discussion of the horrors of that business. The time here is spent getting to know the person.
Filmmaker Tomer Heymann takes a deep dive into his subject’s life. This gives Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life a personal feel other documentaries strive for. Agassi may live a flamboyant life, but nothing ever feels staged. The opening sets up the contradiction and connection that will be seen throughout the film. In spite of all he has accomplished, Agassi is surrounded by pain and sadness.
It is a difficult watch at times, but Agassi has a natural charm that makes it impossible to turn away. When his porn career begins its inevitable decline, he takes on escort work. Though he tries to put on a brave face, it is obvious that Agassi is not happy with what he is doing. (A running theme is how Agassi, whose real name is Yonatan Langer, is looking to disconnect from reality.)
Family is a big part of Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life. It almost seems cliché to talk about a sex worker’s broken life and there is a lot of that here, but it is told authentically. It is a tale that could be manipulative but never feels like it. This is mainly due to the connection between Heymann and Agassi. The former porn star is willing to let his guard down and the director shoots everything.
There is a level of exploitation here, but Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life is not about the salacious details. The film is an often sad look at fame, mental health, and identity. Its over the top lead demonstrates what everyone has in common.
Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life opens in New York May 13
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