Review: Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life a Compelling Cautionary Tale

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday May 18, 2022

'Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life'
'Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life'  

Jonathan Agassi was, at one time, one of the world's most successful and beloved (or, at least, belusted) porn stars. When Israeli documentary filmmaker Tomer Heymann, after a chance meeting, took an interest in Agassi's life and work and turned the camera on him, the glamorous world Agassi lived in and moved through —†a world of triumphs, awards, hot professional sex, and a supportive family —†quickly began to show its seams; it wasn't long before those seams fell apart, the dream life that Agassi keeps describing as "a gift" becoming a downward spiral of drugs, fading prestige, exhausting escort work, and —†at the core and the root of it all — deep-seated family pain that had left him scarred at an early age.

We see the family support from Agassi's mother during is visits to her and his younger sister in Tel Aviv; they're bemused, but non-judgmental, when Agassi puts on of his DVDs (discreetly cutting it off when the action moves to a sex scene) or shows off a revealing outfit. It's only when his younger sister catches on to the nuances of his job —†specifically, the sex work —†that things turn awkward.

But the true revelations... and (as depicted in the film, anyway) the step decline in Agassi's fortunes... begins with a reunion between Agassi and his father in Berlin. The two discuss a difficult chapter from the past (the abandonment of the family by Agassi's father), and Jonathan hears a verbal pipe bomb of disclosures (or, perhaps, lies) that send him reeling. As the film progresses, depictions of Agassi's drug use become constant and when we see him staggering down the street unable to navigate, or collapsing in his apartment, Heymann himself has to step into the frame, and into the story. He's not an observer at this point; he's more like a first responder.

"Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life" is fearless and frightful, stuffed with commodified beauty and psychological brutality. At the center of it is a young man —†someone's brother, someone's son — looking for adoration and validation, finding it, and then discovering it's not enough. A cautionary tale that pierces the glamorous illusions of the porn industry, this is not a movie that will prop up anyone's fantasies; rather, it's a splash of cold water flung on a fever dream.

"Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life" opens in theaters starting in NYC on May 13, followed by Los Angeles on May 20, with other cities to follow.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.